Category Archives: Crabs

All types of crabs such as hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, blue crabs, and ghost crabs.

red crab underwater

A Day on the Indian River Turns Up a New Discovery

We went out on the boat yesterday, my son and I, and ended our day at Three Sisters, which is a group of three islands in the Indian River backwaters. The tide was coming in so there was no sand showing, but it was shallow enough to walk and search for shells.  We were the only ones there until a pontoon boat with a family aboard pulled up as we were leaving.

While walking the shallows, I came across this rather large shell.  It was moving but I could see something red.  At first I thought it was something growing off the side of the shell because the hermit crabs I always see are not red.

seashell under water
Tiny bit of red on this underwater seashell – I’m curious

The shell was moving, as were all the other shells I saw, because they are always occupied by hermit crabs.

Because this one had color, I thought that the conch may still be inside – a living seashell. Some conchs can be brightly colored like the horse conch I once found.  It was difficult to see through the murky water.

red crab underwater
I needed a closer look

Even though the water was shallow it was hard to see exactly what I was looking at. The camera captures a more clear image because in reality I was dealing with moving water. So I had to pick it up and get a better look.

It is seldom ever that I find an empty shell out on the river. Something is always inside. The ends of the shell are always the safest for grabbing so the crab won’t pinch me. And it’s a good thing I was careful because look what I pulled up from the sea!

giant red hermit crab in broken shell in the wild
Giant Red Hermit Crab

I apologize for not having a better, more centered, photo, but it’s difficult to see with the sun glare when taking photos with my iPhone. I have to tip my sunglasses so I’m not looking through them just to see the screen, and even then it’s not clear.  There is no way to see if the image is blurry, so I just hope for the best.  Fortunately these pictures turned out pretty clear.

giant red crab florida
Giant Red Hermit Crab found in the Indian River

In all my time out walking the shallows of the Indian River backwater I have never seen a red hermit crab.  I took a couple of quick photos and put him down.  Usually the hermit crabs I see retreat back into the shell when picked up.  Not this guy… he was bold.  I didn’t want to bother him, so I put him and his broken shell back down. In fact, if his shell hadn’t been broken, so I could see a little bit of his color, I may have passed it by assuming it was just another typical hermit crab.

I had to look this one up when I got home and found some info at TribenWater, where the writer (who is from New Smyrna Beach) says they are native to Florida but “not often seen”.

Then I checked my Florida’s Living Beaches book and found that these crabs live on reefs and are “beached after storms”.
There are no reefs in the Indian River and this red crab must have been far from his home.  His shell looks like an old crown conch, and it was pretty broken.  I’m thinking he must be searching for a new shell to live in.

Anyway, that was my amazing find.  It was such a hot day, and the water had to be 90 degrees.  I’m looking forward to cooler weather.

hermit crab in seashell

Hermit Crabs and Why They Must Fight For Those Seashell Homes!

hermit crab in seashell
Tiny Hermit Crab at Beach

If you read this blog, you have probably grown tired of me talking about hermit crabs, but here I go again!   Usually I am complaining that every awesome shell I come across out in the backwater is inhabited by a hermit crab.

This time I am going to tell (and show) you just how crazy things can get when hermit crabs fight for those seashell homes. It’s a crab vs. crab world down under the sea.

First of all, if you know next to nothing about crabs, here’s a bit of info.

Hermit crabs are not like regular crabs you find along the beach.  We don’t eat them.  Regular crabs scurry across the sand without taking their home along on their back.  It’s difficult to ever see the entire body of the hermit crab, as it is usually hidden within a shell.  A hermit crab will “hang” out of the shell sometimes (like in the photo above), but he will not come all the way out.  If you are lucky enough to be present when he swaps his old shell for a new one, you can get a quick glimpse of the back end of his body.

That shell it carries with it used to belong to a snail – land, or marine.  The hermit crab did not make the shell he lives in, and will stay in it only as long as he fits well inside.   Once the fit is too tight, he will have to find another shell to occupy.  His life depends on it.  The shell will have to be already empty… they don’t kill snails or mollusks to take a shell.  And they don’t fight other hermit crabs that are already inside a shell.

hermit crabs

Imagine that your present home will have to be abandoned as you grow.  You can’t stop growing, so it’s a constant hunt for a new place to live.  Without a shell to hide in, a hermit crab’s life is in peril.

In this NatGeo video, deceptively entitled “Hermit Crab vs. Conch”, a large Horse Conch chases down a tulip snail (banded tulip) and digests it. But the main story is about the hermit crabs who need to find new and larger real estate for their growing bodies. They realize that the horse conch will spit out the left over shell when he’s done eating the snail and they all want that house!

Did you see the shells those hermit crabs are scurrying around in? One was a pear whelk (yellow shell), and one was a shaped like a shark’s eye, or moon snail.

Here’s another amazing video of a hermit crab changing shells, but this one takes her “friends” with her!  Smart creature!  (This shell looks like some kind of knobbed triton.)

You may wonder why the crab doesn’t just find a big shell to live in so he won’t have to worry about trading out his home.  That won’t work because if the shell is too big, he can’t carry it around as easily.

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(Photo credits: Pixabay)

horseshoe crab seashell beach

Big Whelks, Oysters and Something Unexpected

One of the shells in my photo below contains a creature hiding within. He was so secretive that I never knew he was there for a full day after bringing these shells home. So here’s the story…

broken whelks big seashells
Big Whelks found along Indian River

My sons and I went boating in our little Gheenoe a couple days ago. It was not windy at our house, but once we got over to the River we saw whitecaps and knew we would be dealing with wind. Windy conditions and rough water are not a big deal unless you happen to be traveling in a canoe with a motor. With three of us in the little boat it won’t go fast, and because it sits so low in the water, we tend to get wet.

Because of this we didn’t travel far. The closest big island is where we stopped, and I got out to search for seashells. The boys used the trolling motor and went just offshore to do some fishing.   We had the place to ourselves.

The shell hunt began. First I walked the inner side of the island which was extremely windy. I saw a lot of horseshoe crabs – alive and dead, and of course oysters. More than once I’ve been faked out when I think I’ve discovered a big shell in the shallows only to find it’s a nasty clump of oysters!

oysters attached to tree roots
Oysters growing on tree roots along the island coastline

All the cute little shells along the shoreline were moving. Hermit crabs take up residence and steal all the good seashells for themselves. Each beautiful specimen I came across was inhabited, so I took photos and had to be happy with that. Those seashell finds I will share on my next post.

On the inland side of the island, where I was more sheltered from the wind, I found something that made my heart race. A big yellow seashell was up on shore and looked to be buried in the sand.  A shell on the shore means the mollusk is not inside.  Sea snails live in the water.   The fact that it was not moving gave me the impression that a hermit crab was not inside. I was excited, but I should have known better.  I took this photo before picking it up.  Doesn’t it look like it could be a great find?
yellow w WM
Unfortunately the underneath of that shell (which I believe is a knobbed whelk) was completely broken open, so what I saw in the sand is all there was to the shell.   The mollusk had died and the broken shell did not give shelter for a crab.  In other words it was useless to sea life.  I took it home, along with the other broken shells I found.

But the big surprise came the day after our trip to the island, when a hermit crab appeared in the opening of one of the broken shells! Can you guess which shell, from my first photo above?

When I got home I soaked all the shells in water with a small amount of bleach to clean them off.  I left them on the cement deck outside all night and then cleaned them one at a time the next day.  When they were dry, I set them on the table and that is when my son noticed a big hermit crab emerging from the one below!
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Yup, a good size hermit crab is inside the top of this broken, faded and worn Channeled whelk shell.  The inner top of this shell must be hollow and he had scrunched himself into that area.  We could see a bit of his legs through that top broken piece.

We did the only thing we could do to help the crab survive.  We drove over to the River and tossed the shell back into the sea water.

You can see pictures of the Channeled Whelk as it is before it becomes as destroyed as mine is on the “i love shelling” site, where Pam (the blog owner) is fortunate to live and travel to great shelling places.  She writes from the fabulous Gulf Coast, Sanibel area, where gorgeous seashells are everywhere.

I have to work hard just to find these broken ones!  But it’s fun, and who knows, one day I may find something spectacular out there.

hermit crab in seashell

Hermit Crabs in the Wild

Hermit Crab
Image by goingslo via Flickr

My kids had hermit crabs as pets at one time.  They lived in a little box and we provided various size shells for them to change into as they grew.  (Hermit crabs live in the empty shells of mollusks.)

We fed them peanut butter and provided water in a little shell for them to drink.  They would molt as they grew and we considered ourselves lucky to be present when they actually came out of the shell to scoot into a larger one.

They didn’t live very long and that was due to the fact that we didn’t really know what they needed to survive.  Back then, I admit to being ignorant of keeping wild animals as pets.  These days, I would have explained to my daughter that these animals belong in the wild.

When we got our pontoon boat, our family would cruise up and down the Intracoastal along the  Indian River and stop at various little islands to explore and fish.

One of the islands we visited regularly was an island which I named “Broken Palm Island”.  We noticed there were many very tiny hermit crabs roaming the beach there.  I have a picture some place of my son with a little hermit crab crawling on his foot.

The kids thought it was awesome to find so many little crabs living in the wild as they were meant to.    No one had to provide empty shells for these guys, they were finding plenty on the sandy shore.

Since this time, I’ve been out to the backwater areas and have discovered there are many more types of hermit crabs – and they are everywhere!  I’ve even found a Giant Red hermit crab, which is rare for the area where I travel.