Charles Darwin called them “monstrous,” many point them out to be thieves and have nicknamed them the “robber crab” or “palm thief” after having had pots and pans stolen by them. Whatever you call this thing, it demands respect, for its size alone. That and that fact that once you see it you might have nightmares for a while. This isn’t your class’ pet hermit crab.
The Giant Coconut Crab
The giant Coconut Crab is a creature indigenous to coastal areas. These include, but aren’t quite limited to pacific islands surrounding the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Christmas Island holds the largest population of the crustaceans where they are free to roam all over the land, as they cannot swim and would drown in water. This may or may not be a coincidence as to why they aren’t found in areas that are heavily populated by humans.
Coconut Crabs are the sole species in the entire animal kingdom in the “Birgus” genus. They do however share some relation to the terrestrial hermit crabs; genus Coenobita. Like the smaller hermit crab, the robber crab’s body is a decapod and divided into a front section and midsection. Stack on ten large legs and two claws and you’ve got a Coconut Crab.
This Birgus Latro is one of the largest land-dwelling arthropods and can weigh up to 9 pounds. These behemoths of hermit crabs are also over 1 meter in length, with an intense leg span. Those long legs let them vertically climb trees, usually coconut palms and grab and crack their favorite fruit- coconuts. The Coconut Crab eats mostly fruit and the occasional animal that is too slow to escape it. A few years back when a certain Coconut crab got “lucky” and seemingly brutally murdered a booby. Yes, a full-on booby!
Thankfully, they are not known as predators. Adult Coconut Crabs are scavengers, mostly. This is probably due to the fact that they are noisy and move slowly all while having the lack the ability to sneak up on other creatures. They do have a keen sense of smell, that would come in handy though. They do also have a bit of a bite. A researcher from the Okinawa Churashima Foundation zoological lab, Shin-ichiro Oka, says that a Coconut Crab’s pinch hurts like “eternal hell.” So, I guess here’s a good time to repeat that old adage, look but don’t touch.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on November 29, 2019.