Hermit crabs and their homes
If you come to the Maldives, you’ll be sure to notice the scuttling shells along its beaches. Hermit crabs are everywhere, different sizes, different colors, and all with different shells. Without its shell a hermit crab has no home.
One thing that we cannot stress enough is that even though they look pretty and it’s a nice souvenir, collecting shells is a big no no. This is because hermit crabs are big on recycling and reusing shells. Instead of spending time and energy creating and growing their own shells they often just move from one shell to another as they get bigger.
Some hermit crabs are known to become aggressive and fight each other for their homes. Others can even gang up on an individual who has a particularly good shell and try to steal their home. Sometimes “vacancy chains” can form. This is when one individual finds an empty shell and will try it out; if the shell is not right, the crab will return to its original shell and wait. It waits for other crabs to arrive to inspect the empty shell. They will line up in order of size, sometimes even holding onto each other until the right crab comes along to move into the empty shell. Then it’s game on; all the crabs in the chain (up to 20 crabs!) will quickly move shell, upgrade from their smaller home to a slightly bigger one.
Some hermit crabs can live up to 70 years, think of how many homes a hermit crab can have, that’s a lot of moving. If there are no shells available hermit crabs are known to live inside plastic caps, or even tin cans, that can’t be comfortable! We need to make sure that these guys have a safe natural place to live and can upgrade when needed. So please don’t collect or buy shells, don’t make the hermit crabs homeless!