Tag Archives: wildlife

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.

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A Starfish / Sea Star Collection

starfish on glass tableWhen I traveled to Florida this past summer to visit my son, we visited with some of his friends and enjoyed a swim in their backyard, saltwater pool. Off to the side was a glass table with a bunch of dried starfish, or sea stars, so I took a photo. The home owners were not home, so I didn’t have a chance to ask them where the starfish came from. I know they have a nice boat and suspect they may have collected them from a trip to a Florida beach, or offshore island.

In Florida there are five armed sea stars, like the ones in the photo, and some with 9 legs / arms. Some have so many legs, like the feather star, that you wouldn’t think of them as starfish.  I’ve never personally seen many starfish on Florida beaches. Occasionally there would be a piece on the sand, or more often I’d find living sea stars. Even those I didn’t come across too often. But I didn’t live on the beach and only took occasional day trips with the kids to spend a few hours.

I’d love to have access to the beach in the early morning before the crowds arrive. Being able to walk along the shore at odd hours of the day, or right after a storm, would be wonderful. I’m envious of people who live near that expanse of nature that changes so rapidly and offers up such treasures.

You can see native Lined Sea Stars in action at this post on the i Love Shelling blog. She also has an image of the 9-armed variety.

The Crown Shell is a Perfect Home for Hermit Crabs

IMG_0607 hermit crbThe crown shell is recognizable by it’s pointy ridges and striped appearance. While visiting the intracoastal waterway this summer, I saw these crown shells everywhere, but they were most often inhabited, not by the mollusk that made them, but by a hermit crab.

Many years ago my kids had hermit crabs as pets. This was mostly due to the fact that my daughter wanted to have one of every kind of animal on earth as her pet. We had to buy gravel to put in a small container for the crab and we had to provide empty seashells for it to move into when it grew. Now I wonder how the hermit crabs we had as pets lived at all, since the ones I saw in the wild stay completely under water. And it’s salt water. They are walking all over the shallows and could be in deeper water too I suspect.

They scuttled out of the way as we backed the boat in, and when we stopped at islands along the waterway the hermit crabs were there too. And more often than not they were in a crown shell.

hermit crab
Then, I finally found a crown shell with it’s owner inside. I took it out of the water for a moment to snap a photo and then I put him back. One day his shell will most likely be a hermit crab home.
crown shell and mollusk inside

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.) I think we fed them peanut butter and provided water 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.  Now, with the internet available it’s easy to find articles about caring for pet hermit crabs.

When we got our pontoon boat we would cruise up and down the Intracoastal at Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon and stop at various little islands to explore and fish, and one place we used to visit regularly was an island I named “Broken Palm Island”.  That is where we came across a bunch of wild hermit crabs – very small ones – roaming the beach.  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 as they were meant to.    No one had to provide empty shells for these guys, they were finding plenty on the sandy shore.

Who Is Watching The Gulf Coast Birds?

The enormous and sad task of watching the birds of the gulf coast struggle to survive the oil slick is partly the job of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Now, more than ever the sightings and nesting habits of the pelicans, roseate spoonbills and many others will need to be watched.

Watch a slide show of birds gradually becoming covered with the oil that is washing into their territory among the mangroves of Louisiana.

On a brighter note, the seabird colonies of Breton Island are being protected and I guess that is the most we can hope for, that a few of the many important areas of bird habitats can be left untouched.  I am still wondering about the mollusks, and of course there is so much more being destroyed.

If you live along the Gulf coast and want to help with reporting or donate to the clean up efforts, or just want to see what’s going on, visit the Cornell site.
Apparently the media has had restrictions imposed on covering the damage. Read more here.

Seashell Identification
Seashell Coloring Page