It was late morning and the winter sun was sharp. The sea was calm and there was a gentle breeze. Small waves rolled in gently on to the clean and beautiful beach. I was strolling on the beach just far enough from the water to avoid the waves. A somewhat larger wave crashed on the sand and threatened to reach me. As the water receded, I noticed a long, conical shell left behind on the wet hard sand. As I was watching, it started moving. The manner in which it moved got me curious, so I sat down for a closer look. What was in front of my eyes was actually a Hermit Crab.
I had read about these animals but this was the first time I was actually seeing one. These crabs have their body nicely tucked into a shell with only the legs out enabling it to walk and feed. Hermit Crabs are peculiar creatures. They are distantly related to crabs but not true crabs! Their habit of living in discarded shells of other molluscs gives these soft-bodied crabs much needed protection. When there is danger, they withdraw into the shell and block the entrance with their claws. Using a shell that is not its own poses some problems. As the hermit crab grows the rigid shell can be restricting. So, as they grow they need to find a larger, suitable shell to accommodate their body and reject the old one! There are over 500 species of hermit crabs in the world. Many of these are aquatic some being terrestrial.
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