Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Friendly hermits

Hermit crabs belong to a large family of decapod crustaceans who move into empty snail, periwinkle, or other mollusk shells to protect their vulnerable rear ends. Scientists have counted over 800 species, found everywhere from the deep sea to tropical tree-tops. Like other crustaceans, hermit crabs have an exoskeleton, but it only covers their head, legs and claws. Their long soft abdomens are are curved like a cashew, with the last pair of limbs working like a clamp, allowing the crab to stay in the shell. As they grow, every so often they must move house, hopping in and out as quickly as possible.

Hermit crabs probably earned their name from our assumptions that life in a cave-like shell is reclusive and lonely. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth – hermit crabs are downright sociable and community-minded. In fact, they prefer to live in colonies of 100 or more. As well, they often generously share their home with a variety of other species, including fuzzy hydrozoans (ie. snail fur), sponges and flashy anenomes (as pictured right, courtesy of Daily Kos). Hermit crabs play an important role in their community, scavenging dead animals and grazing on the microalgae that growns on the shells of their neighbours.

This model citizen of the benthos was knitted for our crafted seafloor by the talented and elusive Miss Knit, using a Hansigurumi pattern. It is only about two weeks until we celebrate World Ocean Day - now is the time to finish up your critter and pop it in the mail!


Miss B. said...

He looks right at home, all nestled in. I can't wait to see the final display! Awesome :)

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