Birth of a Hermit Crab

Land hermit crabs are the species know as coenobito clypeatus. They have many stages in life. The female holds several hundred eggs inside her shell while they mature and later they hang out over the shell as they grow. The eggs are attached to her abdomen and appendages until they are ready to hatch. They have been fertilized by a male (it is believed).

When she is ready she goes to the ocean and releases the eggs in the ocean by scrapping her appendages. They look sort of like light brown round circles in a bunch of grapes. The hatched egg opens out of the egg looking like a long snout with tiny eyes. It is known as a zoea in this stage. It is less than 1/8 of an inch. The zoea grows by molting and molts five or six times to gain size. Each time it sheds its outer exoskeleton. A new large zoea grows covering itself with a new skeleton. It also grows appendages. It then enters the glaucothoe stage. His eyes are now on his stalks and two of his appendages have become claws. He is at this glaucothoe stage for about another month forming four antennae and antennules. After another molt he is off looking for protection of an empty shell as he is very vulnerable at this stage. He makes good fish food. They often hide in seaweed or on sea fan or moving plants. They come to shore sometimes with and sometimes without a shell and will not need to return to the ocean except to replenish their calcium. Often you will see hermits at the oceans edge doing just that.

But remember they do not drink salt water though. They drink rain water and need it to survive.

Hermit crabs have been known to live as long as twenty five to thirty years in captivity. We knew of a hermit that lived to be forty years old. His master found him in the Pacific during World War II. We saw him yearly when he would some in for his yearly new shell change. He died in the late 80's while living in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida near my parents' shop.

On a recent visit to Tahiti and outer islands we found many land hermits. They are white and black with a red line on their back. They are extremely friendly and do not seem to be aggressive. Hundreds would go to the shore line at the waters edge bathing themselves at night. They were all the giants. Because there were so many large shells available and so few people on all the remote islands we visited, many large hermits existed. We also found them climbing coconut trees for the fruit by the dozens during the day. That was an adventure never to be forgotten.