There is no denying that the coconut crab - Birgus latro, is a highly impressive (if not rather scary) member of the arthropod family. They live on islands or larger landmasses in the Indian Ocean and the central Pacific Ocean, and predictably their distribution closely matches that of the coconut palm.

Coconut crab - Broken In Glory
Discovered around 1688 by western scientists since the voyages of William Dampier (first Englishman to explore parts of Australia, and the first person to circumnavigate the world three times), the Coconut crab populations in several areas has now declined or become locally extinct due to habitat loss and human predation. In 1981, it was listed on the IUCN Red List as a vulnerable species and now conservation management strategies have been put in place in some, but not all regions.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of biological data it is difficult to asses the true state of Coconut crab populations, but with research still being undertaken we are learning more as each year passes. It stands to reason that the more we know about the Coconut crab the more we can do to ensure that these incredible creatures not only survive but thrive.

These are just some of the amazing facts that have been found out so far:

1. The coconut crab is a species of terrestrial hermit crab. So adapted are they for living on dry land that they cannot swim, and will drown if immersed in water for long. Be that as it may, they haven't completely left their watery heritage behind,. While mating occurs on dry land, the females need to migrate to the sea to release their fertilised eggs as they hatch.

Coconut crab - Fearless Rich
2. The coconut crab is also known as the robber crab or palm thief, and is the largest land-living arthropod in the world! It is also believed to be at the upper size limit for terrestrial animals with exoskeletons in recent Earth atmosphere

3. Not only is the Coconut crab larger than life, so is their lifespan. A fully grown adult can live for over 60 years.

4. Adult coconut crabs not only feed on fruits, nuts, seeds, and the pith of fallen trees, they will also consume other organic materials such as tortoise hatchlings and dead animals. Surprisingly, one coconut crab was observed killing and eating a Polynesian Rat!

 While this species is clearly associated with coconuts they are not a significant part of their diet. However the coconut crab is more than capable of climbing trees to pick coconuts, which it then opens to eat the flesh.

5. Adult coconut crabs have no known predators besides larger coconut crabs. Unfortunately, due to its huge size and quality of its meat it is extensively hunted for food by man and is now rare on islands with a human population. It is considered to be both a delicacy and an aphrodisiac, and intensive hunting has threatened the species' survival in some areas.

Broken Ina Glory image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

Fearless Rich  image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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