HERMIT CRABS: SHELL-DWELLERS & CONTESTANTS FOR WACKY RACES


HERMIT CRABS: SHELL-DWELLERS & CONTESTANTS FOR WACKY RACES

Hermit Crabs are all around – occasionally (sadly and unavoidably) underfoot. They borrow an empty shell, and as they grow they trade up to a bigger one, leaving their previous home for a smaller crab to move into. It’s a benign chain of recycling that the original gastropod occupant would no doubt approve of… The crabs are able to adapt their flexible bodies to their chosen shell. In the 1st 2 images the crab has chosen a somewhat weathered shell, into which he fits snugly

This small crab has gone for something more modern – possibly quite an awkward shape to lug about…

These crabs have found the Delphi Club bird feeders and taken up residence close by. They forage in the grass, many wearing West Indian top shells. One seems to want to climb the tree to get at the feeder…

They are sensitive to sound: approaching footfalls send them scurrying for shelter into the undergrowth or to holes in the limestone rock. They don’t all manage to fit into a hole so the ‘outsiders’ try to look inconspicuous by withdrawing into their shells, though from a predator’s point of view there are usually a couple of telltale legs sticking out…

Quick, everyone – hide! A human just trod on Derek…An entertaining after-dinner game (and I blame Caroline Stahala for starting this one) is hermit crab racing. Please note that no crabs are harmed in the course of these sporting proceedings, though some crabs may feel a little humiliated. The races can be played for money, of course, but the complete unpredictability and lack of any information about a crab’s previous racing form make that unwise. Far better to have a few drinks first. Then some more afterwards. 

HERMIT CRAB RACING: THE OFFICIAL RULES

  • Dinner is to be completed and drink taken by all participants before racing can commence
  • Each contestant chooses a crab from the group under the bird feeders
  • All chosen crabs are placed in a dish

  • Caroline (or whomsoever shall be designated) paints the shells with each contestant’s name

  • The crabs are lined up by hand on the verandah as straight as they will permit (so, not very)
  • The starter will say “Ready, Steady, GO”, and the crabs are released over a 3 meter course
  • The winner shall be the first crab over the finishing line. In the event of a dead-heat, the crab requiring the least foot-impetus and direction correction is declared winner
  • The crabs shall be returned to the collection site (those that can still be found) and all humans shall return to the Clubhouse for celebrations…

DELPHI HCR RACE REPORT 2012

This crab (the largest) was chosen by Sandy Walker, and regrettably was the only one that started by going backwards. It was never in serious contention

Caroline becomes very overexcited by her crab’s progress

Others resort to unorthodox methods like ‘foot-persuasion’ to keep their crab on course. RH didn’t realise this was allowed at all, and watched his crab dive pathetically off the edge of the verandah into the flowerbed – an irrecoverable drop of 6 inches

Most of the crabs went forwards as intended, though with a certain amount of lateral movement. 2 or 3 seemed to have got the general idea of the race and proceeded more or less according to plan

The impressive winner, by nearly half a minute, was the crab named ‘Emma’. A well-deserved victory, especially as the owner / trainer’s foot-directing was minimal (bare feet!)…

The one thing I would like to know about these little creatures is how they – and their shells – are to be found in large numbers 50 foot above sea-level at the top of a cliff…