19 December 2009

A hustle of hermits

Hermit crabs don't kill snails for their shells. Or do they?
I came across this seemingly innocent huddle of tiny hermit crabs in a wide variety of snails shells.

A closer look shows they are gathered around what seems to be an empty snail shell.
Hermit crabs have soft butts and have to tuck these into empty snail shells which they then drag around with them. Like many humans, hermit crabs are always on the look out for a shell upgrade. Hermit crabs of various sizes often gather around a newly empty shell.

The biggest of the hermit crabs has a hold of the 'empty' shell and starts to drag it away. Causing the huddle to string out into a line of hermit crabs in almost descending order of size.
Hermit crabs of various sizes often gather around a newly empty shell. When one of them takes the new shell, another hermit may take over its abandoned shell. And so on down the line in a hermit version of musical chairs.
The biggest hermit crab continues to drag its prize shell away from the rabble.
And as it does so, I realise the shell is NOT empty! The snail seems to be still very much embedded in it. Here you can see the snails body and tentacles.
Hmm. Is the snail recently demised? Or merely sick? Or are hermit crabs less innocent than we think? I didn't stick around to see the gruesome end.

There are several kinds of hermit crabs on this shore. Besides the little ones above were larger Tidal hermit crabs (Diogenes sp.), which are also very common on shores such as Changi. The enlarged pincer is really huge!
Among the rocks where there are live corals is this other kind of hermit crab with banded legs and colourful body parts. These are also commonly seen on our other shores.
The Spotted hermit crab (Dardanus sp.) was also seen on this shore in the past. But we've not come across it on our recent trips. There are usually also some Striped hermit crabs (Clibanarius sp.) on this shore. Chun Fong took a video of a Land hermit crab (Coenobita sp.) on the high shore.

There's so much more to learn about our hermit crabs!

There were also lots of other encounters on the shore.

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