Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rally For A Claws!

As I've been posting about for years, hermit crabs are NOT hermits! They are actually quite social. They often get together in small groups (2-20) for shell exchanges, food congregations, and other gatherings. However, all of those social interactions are minor when compared to this: a genuine hermit crab mass migration!

Each year throughout the Caribbean, there’s a migration that matches the vast wildebeest migrations across the Serengeti. In the dark of night, thousands of terrestrial hermit crabs (Coenobita clypeatus) set out from inland forests, scrambling along jungle paths and tumbling down mountainsides until they reach the shore. There, thousands of hermit crabs congregate on just a few beaches, forming giant hermit crab conventions. Previously known only from local folklore and scattered scientific reports, in 2012 this phenomenon attracted widespread media attention after it was filmed on St. John USVI by Steve Simonsen (see below).

Such hermit crab conventions are clearly an impressive natural phenomenon, yet their root cause remains mysterious, as does their timing. We are planning to study these migrations, but in order to do that, we first must locate them. And to do that, we need YOU! Hence: rally for a claws. Ba-dum-dum. :-)

Do you know anyone on St. John? Are you going there on vacation? Or elsewhere in the Caribbean? If so, you can help participate in our research project by helping us to find the crabs!

Simply record your observations and submit to this website. 

In return, we'll keep you posted on this blog. More information can be found in this news story from the St. Johns Source Newspaper.

Thanks, and happy crabbing!! :-) 

Hermit crab migration - Coenobita clypeatus - photography by Steve Simonsen