Saturday, August 11, 2012

Creature Feature: Hermit Crabs.

So I'm now back in a little area of Illinois I like to call "Suburban Hell." There are whole strip malls that have died just by being in this suburb. Most tragically, the local magic shop, and several other stores in its little strip, have decided to close shop. Even other suburbanites say my suburb sucks.

That said, here's a critter known for moving: the classic hermit crab.

The name "hermit crab" is a little bit misleading; they are more closely related to squat lobsters and porcelain crabs than 'standard' crabs. They are usually native to tropical regions or completely marine. There are several kinds of hermit crabs (over 1100 species), but they all have one thing in common: As they grow, they need to move into another animal's shell or shelter. 

Unlike most crustaceans, hermit crabs have squishy abdomens.  They are designed such that, as they grow older, they can fit into another animal's shell. When a nearby snail dies, hermit crabs line up to see who can fit in the shell. When that owner gets too big for it, the cycle starts again, and smaller crabs line up to take the abandoned shell. I would hate to see the real estate prices on those shells.

Quick, find it an apartment!

Not all hermit crabs live in shells. Some of them inhabit burrows of sea worms.Others prefer coral, sponges, and bivalves to snails. They've been around since the Cretaceous- of course they've evolved to do better than single snail shells.  A few of them deliberately put sea anemones on their shells as a form of home security. Despite the names, hermit crabs can and should live in communities, making housing slightly easier to come by.

Most of you have probably seen land hermit crabs in pet stores. These are terrestrial hermit crabs of the genus Coenobita; I usually see some Ecuadoran hermit crabs around. As hermit crabs grow in popularity, more and more species of this genus are appearing for sale. They used to be thought of as a "throwaway" pet, but can live a surprisingly long time if their rather strict environment is maintained. Now that people are catching on, books and other items for hermit crab care are becoming readily available. They even make little painted shells for your hermit crab to move into.

For those of us who don't have the space or time to manage hermit crabs (they aren't that bad, really), Pokemon has four hermit crabs total. The Slowpoke family is  based off of hermit crabs, with Slowbro outright called "hermit crab" as its title. The other hermit crab family, Dwebble and Crustle, is newer. 

1 comment:

  1. I am amazed no one has commented on this yet!

    We had hermit crabs for pets when I was growing up. Our first two, named "Kona" and "Bita" to honor the scientific name, lived for somewhere around 4 years and became very socialized. They did not pinch us; they were smart enough to know when we were calling them or saying it was feeding time; and they soon learned that a human palm meant a chance to Explore New Places.

    We had another, named Clippy, after the first two passed away, but he was not as long-lived or as friendly...I wonder if they need a social environment to flourish?

    Anyway, thanks for the stroll down memory lane. It's not that hard to keep them and the reward is quite large. Unlike, say, most lizards, you don't have to worry about them vanishing in a flash; they are surprisingly able to deal with the occasional power-outage-induced cold spell; and they're amazingly cute.

    I love this blog. Thank you so much.

    --Kitt B.