Nature Blog Network

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Invert PSA: Help the Homeless (Hermit Crabs That Is)

"Right now, 30 percent of all hermit crabs on our shorelines are living in shells that are too small for them. In the springtime, when the animal has its growth spurt, this shortage skyrockets to 60 percent. Hermit crabs, whose own bodies provide only thin exoskeletons, must scavenge and appropriate hard-walled shells abandoned by marine gastropods for shelter. The problem is that there currently are not enough shells left on our beaches for hermit crabs to use. This situation is not only uncomfortable but dire."-Demaray 2004
This is the warning from an article by Elizabeth Demaray 3 years ago in Cabinet Magazine. This still rings true today. S.A.L.-P. and I have done our part by adopting 3 unfortunate hermit crabs from a misorder by our intro bio labs, but we are only 2 graduate students. This issue is bigger than us.

Our new office pets: Crazy, Loopy and Tiny.

Thank Hey-Zeus that there are architects working day and night on this important issue facing the world's hermit crab population. Based on a design from 1930's fascist Italian architect Giuseppe Terragni, the Hands Up Project has produced a plastic hermit crab shelter that will revolutionize the hermit crab housing industry. It is lightweight, comes in various sizes and colors, high internal volume and contains a post for the crab to hold onto with its claw. The Lexus of hermit crab homes if you ask me. Hermit crabs everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief knowing that there struggle in finding a home is significantly lessened.

"As might be imagined, even without the current housing shortage, the finding and exchanging of shells is a preoccupation amongst this species.[...] Based on what we know about the new needs of these animals in their current environment, the Hand Up Project proposes to manufacture alternative forms of housing, specifically designed for use by land hermit crabs, out of plastic. This solution offers multiple benefits. Not only will the project afford the animal badly needed additional forms of shelter, but we also contend that, by utilizing current technology, we may now be better equipped to meet the needs of this life-form than nature ever has."Demaray 2004

Please do your part today. If you cannot adopt and provide a home for a hermit crab, buy or make shelters for them and littergently place them across beaches everywhere. Just ask yourself, what if it were me without a home?

*Last two photos from the Demaray article.


  1. Thanks Jason, I tried finding direct info on the Hand Up Project, but to no avail. I can see it now, ads for crab shacks and canned crab on their backs... or the McCrabcake?

  2. Couldn't we just move them all to golden gate park? Oh, wait. I gave my berserkerly bound cousin a high school graduation gift of $20 with instructions to buy a subscription to Cabinet. I hope she takes my advice!

  3. Former resident of Bezerkeley. I am surprised there hasn't been a massive save the hermit crab campaign there. We could put the hermit crabs in the japanese garden at Golden Gate Park.

    Good luck to your cousin!

  4. I seem to have stepped smack into the cosmic lattice of coincidence here -- we just bought two new hermit crabs at the pet store Sunday to provide some company for our loner. Their names are Cinderella, Peanut, and Poppy (don't ask). Back before 9/11 I used to smuggle these guys back from field expeditions in Belize, where the shortage of shells got so bad at times that they could be found wandering around in shotgun shells, broken pipe bowls, and film canisters. No, I am not making this up.

    One day, on the way home from Belize, I was standing in the security line at Miami International with two hermits in my pocket and the lady behind me says, real matter-of-fact-like, "Sir, there's a crab crawling up your back." Sure enough, one of my new friends had bolted for daylight. Fortunately I was able to get the situation under control and avoided an international incident.

  5. Maybe its omen Emmett, you are meant to hire me as a postdoc and together we will unveil the true meaning of hermit crab shell selection.

    I always try to smuggle in a few things here and there for colleagues. Like a single leaf, dried, from parasitic indian pipe-like plant a buddy and I found hiking through the no-mans-land of Fiji. I intended to save it for a guy I knew studying evolution of parasitic plants, but lost the sample when I got back home...

    Sometimes, I collect things not from the deep-sea too. I have a fondness for crustaceans, cirripedes and cnidarians that cause me to lose control and foam at the mouth when I meet one.

    I love the crab on you back story though! One day, maybe over a beer, I would like to ask how you averted an international incident lol.

  6. Why is there a shortage of shells for the crabs? Or, maybe it is the other way around: there are too many hermit crabs. Are they missing a predator or something?

  7. Shell collectors, also shells get lost through being buried in the sand in the course of a day or broken through wave action. Perhaps another solution to this pressing problem is the periodically sift the sand for intact shells or build anti-wave walls or dike along the coast to lessen wave action, of course this won't bring in any new shells...

    Hermit crab predators? Shorebirds? Plenty of plovers, terns and seagulls.

  8. I just finished reading Demaray's article. It almost sounds like a good-natured hoax. She obviously doesn't have much of a background in biology. The sections on snails & crabs could have used a good polishing by someone more knowledgeable in those subjects. She gives no information on who is running this project. Those plastic homes they are building for crabs would not allow the crabs to withdraws deep if & when a predator comes knocking on the door, whereas an extra large snail shell with many whorls would let a crab to withdraw far away from the aperture. Finally, if the shortage of shells is a natural process, why interfere?

  9. Why do you have to be such a hermit hater? Just because they take your precious shells? This is human-accelerated shell change! As a malacologist you should feel disgusted and ashamed of yourself!

    Hey man, if the snail ain't there, crab may declare! (if the glove don't fit...)

    And yes, I thought it was hoax once there was no information to be found about the Hands Up Project, which is why I think it is all the more fun lol. Otherwise it would just be beach litter.

  10. In the Cayman Islands the problem is two-fold. One is over-harvesting of Whelks for stew. Often the shells are sent to the dump. The other is tourist beach-combing. - under "Press" bottom of the page from 2000. I couldn't/can't find the plastic "shells" to test but one concern would be that they are too light - they should duplicate the actual weight of the natural shell - further, "rescuing" them to put in aquariums is ridiculous! That's not preserving wildlife - that's just having pets.


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