Video of Big Hermit Crab in the Wild

While searching the backwater beach at low tide, I found a big lightning whelk shell encrusted with barnacles. I thought that either it was alive, with the snail inside, or a hermit crab had taken up residence. It turned out to be the latter.

Most of the time hermit crabs will quickly duck down deep inside the shell when they see me approach. I decided to sneak up on this one, just in case. I slowly lifted the shell and the hermit didn’t seem to notice I was there. I continued to take video with my phone while lifting the shell.

A second hermit crab was under the larger one. It was in a banded tulip shell and the big hermit was reaching for it! See the video I took below. It is unusual for a hermit to hang out of it’s shell like this! You can see the barnacles on his back and he really wanted to hang onto that other shell.

I’ve seen hermit crabs gather before and it seems they are trying to roll each other’s shell, like maybe they are checking it out. This large crab could not have been interested in taking the smaller shell, so I have no idea what he was doing.

Once I got my video, I let go of the shell and both crabs popped back inside their shells (photo right).

On this day, I saw quite a few very large hermit crabs. Most were hidden inside the shells. They can stay tucked down inside for a very long time. The shell parts that were in the mud were bright orange but the rest of the shell was covered in muddy barnacles.

All of these very large crabs were inside lightning whelks. This shell is easy to identify by it’s left-side opening. The shell can be very pretty, but as you can see most of these shells are covered in growth and mud. The snails that made the shells have died, and hermit crabs and barnacles have moved in.

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The Coffee Melampus Shell Identification

The Coffee melampus shell is small and roundish. The one I photographed is brown in color with horizontal stripes. The hermit crab which was carrying the shell, was hidden down under the large crown conch. It’s one of those small shells which would be easy to overlook while beach-combing.

crown conchs, hermit crab, coffee melampus
Hermit in a coffee melampus shell

The living crown conchs seemed to meet up just greet each other, so I began taking video with my phone. As I watched another shell began to move out from under the larger conch. A striped hermit crab was carrying it as he crawled across the top of the conch. I took a photo to bring home where I could study the shell better and discover what it is called.

As I flipped through my seashell ID book, nothing jumped out at me. There were no small roundish brown shells. Then as I was trying to identify another tiny shell I’d found days later, I came across the picture of the Melampus snail. It looked to be the same shape, even if the shells in my book were not brown.

Two living crown conch snails say “hello” and a hermit crab emerges in a Coffee Melampus shell.

At the Matthews-Bailey Shell Museum site they say that this shell belongs to a land snail – in the family Ellobiidae. However, my seashell book lists this as a sea snail in the family Marginellidae saying that the two families are related.

Hermit crabs can exist on both dry land and underwater, but can’t stay out on dry land long. They need the saltwater to survive. He definitely could have found this snail shell on dry land and brought it into the sea.

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Gorgeous True and Banded Tulip Shells

Tulip shells can be some of the prettiest I ever find, but I rarely find them! Then, the other day when we boated up to a new (for us) little sand bar, it turned out to be the ‘island of tulip shells’.

Tulip snails can be found all around the coastline of Florida, or just about. The tulips are elongated shells which are similar in shape to the Horse Conch but don’t get as large. They are all “spindle” shells. The top and bottom of the shell is long with a rounded center part. Horse Conchs are bumpy at the top whereas Tulips are smooth.

True tulips, like the one pictured here, grow larger than the banded variety and they have less distinct horizontal bands. Both types have beautiful splotches of color that can be gray, brown, orange, pink or maroon.

I spotted this beauty and moved in for a closer look.

The big tulip was moving (because a hermit crab was living inside) against the flow of the water quite fast. Mollusks move slowly, so I knew it was a crab that had taken over. I called my son over to see the shell and the crab just kept moving along. He wasn’t bothered at all by our approach!

True tulip barnacles hermit crab
A large hermit crab moves this Tulip shell along just under the surface

My Super Short Video of This Hermit Crab in a Pretty Tulip Shell

Even covered in barnacles, this True Tulip coloring was hard to miss. The maroon and pink colors were just stunning and the shell is quite large. True Tulip’s grow to be 5 inches according to my reference book, but this one is at least six inches long.

true tulip, seashell, pink, maroon, barnacles,
Large true tulip shell

Top and bottom of the True Tulip

This masterpiece of a seashell has pretty blue-green coloring inside. I did not notice this until I looked at my photos! I was careful how I held this one because that hermit crab was big. Usually the hermits stay tucked up inside, but sometimes I find a brave guy who likes to come out. I wasn’t taking any chances.

large true tulip shell with barnacles

True tulips will eat banded tulips! There is no mercy in the animal kingdom.

A Beautiful Dark Banded Tulip Shell

On the same muddy island I also came across this gorgeous banded tulip. Banded tulips are generally smaller than the True type and the bands are clearly seen. The dark coloring is striking and a hermit crab was tucked up inside.

The banded tulip below is partially covered by hardened sand. The elements of salt and sun can do some damage. And then there are the barnacles that will attach themselves in clusters. When I find shells like this there is always something living inside so I move the shells as little as possible to get photos.

With a whole island to explore, I gave each sighting a bit of time and moved on to see what was coming next. On this day, there turned out to be a whole lot to see. In fact, I rarely find Tulip shells at all. But, as you can tell, this day was different. None of them held the snail that made the shell, which was unfortunate.

Also view the Shell Guide pages at Bailey Matthews Shell Museum to see more about this marine snail.

tulip shell crown conch hermit crabs

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