|Please don’t eat me! I’m all shell.|
Whispered sounds sifted across the sand. Something very large was headed his way. A bright light swept across the beach, momentarily blinding him. Clack! He quickly tucked his ten legs inside his house, slamming his large front claw across the entrance, barricading his front door against predators. Quivering inside his home Hernando waited, listening to the approaching noises. Would he survive this night? Would he live to see another dawn? “Please don’t let them eat me” he whispered. “I don’t taste good. I’m all shell. Please spare me.”
|A choice of Turbo Snail Shells for Hernando|
Suddenly he was being lifted up, off the sand. Oh no, was this the end? More noise and bright lights and he was placed inside a large metal container. This really was the end. He was going to be cooked and eaten! Hernando struggled mightily against the steep metal sides, trying to escape, scrabbling frantically. Then, oddly enough, a beautiful new shell was carefully placed beside him in the container. “What?” he wondered, “What just happened?”
|Changed into a roomy one that weighed less|
Cautiously Hernando touched the new shell with his front claws, feeling for a trap. Or worse yet, perhaps a larger creature lurked inside hoping to catch him for its meal. Hernando gently turned the shell over, and over, exploring the edges and looking for flaws, or holes. It had black, and yellow, and white stripes with a gentle curl to the right, and a smooth interior.
Hernando quickly pulled his slim tubular body from his current shell, and spiraled into the new one. It was a perfect fit, with slightly less weight to carry around, but with room to grow for the next year or so. And then the big hand reached for him again. The hand placed him inside different container where he again scrambled and clawed at the sides, hoping to escape certain death. Suddenly he was set back down on the sand near dozens of his friends. The others were enjoying a feast of tasty food, and bathing in clean shallow pools. Heaven, he was in Hermit Crab Heaven. It was the only possible explanation.
|Hermit Crab Heaven – food, water, friends, shells|
Hernando’s first instinct was to scamper away and hide in the nearby bushes, but once he realized he was not being pursued – he stopped. He turned around, and re-joined the party on the beach. Scattered on the sand were dozens of shells in various sizes and colours. Straggly lines of Hermit Crabs, ordered from largest to smallest, clutched the next-in-line crab. Hernando knew what this was; he had experienced this many times. It was a shell exchange!
|Hermit Crab shell exchange conga-line|
As soon as the largest crab in the line choose a new shell, and decided that it was a good fit, it then released its tight grip on its current house, allowing the now empty shell to be taken by the next crab in the line. Eventually during the evening as many as eight or nine trades per shell would take place allowing most of the crabs to secure a newer and bigger shell. Some would be disappointed, not finding a better shell. Hernando knew that not having any shell was the very worst outcome for a Hermit Crab.
The shells were necessary to protect their fragile bodies from being battered by the rough ground. They were also necessary to carry a supply of water, and to keep them safe from predators.
|Slim tubular body stuffed in plastic bottle|
Hernando had made do with a variety of objects in his ten or more years of life. (He wasn’t really certain how old he was. None of the crabs knew how to count and some of his relatives had lived a lot more years than he had.) In past seasons he had lived in a plastic bottle top, a glass pill bottle, and more recently a white jar that had held a smelly sticky substance before he moved into it. Life was tough for a Hermit Crab. But, he, Hernando already had a gorgeous new shell, so he ignored the shell line-ups and headed straight to the food.
|Hernando in a Pond’s Cold Cream bottle|
The thing was, thought Hernando as he munched his food, they were called Hermit Crabs, but really they were very sociable creatures. They enjoyed meeting up on the beach, touching and exploring with feelers and claws, identifying friends and family. The only time things got a bit tense was during the shell exchanges – some of the impatient crabs could get downright nasty if they didn’t get the shell they wanted. Occasionally a scuffle would break out, but it was quickly settled when one or the other of the crabs grabbed the shell and scurried away.
|Our neighbour Chuck looking at Hernando|
Some evenings Hernando roamed a large area, traveling a very long distance in search of food. And one time he traveled past the green house, past the long white house, past the orange house, past another white house, all the way to the yellow house. The large inhabitant of that house thought he was interesting, and picked him up to have a better look. “What the heck is wrong with these creatures?” Hernando muttered, waving his antennas in agitation: “Don’t they understand that this really big front claw can do serious damage to those soft pink sticks they use to poke at me? I ama seriously mean dude!”
Back at the Crab-i-tat, where the beach party was still in progress the Hermit Crabs gobbled down the free food. However there was always a downside to the free gifts. It was frequent and terrifying visits from the large creatures that inhabited this area, flashing their bright lights across the sand and shouting: “Oh, look at this one! He’s huge!” Well, he grudgingly admitted to himself, maybe he wasn’t all that scary to the big creatures. He was the one who had slammed his large front claw across the mouth of his shell, hiding, quivering in fear.
After terrifying the wits out of him for a few minutes, they left him alone again to enjoy the rest of the evening with his Hermit Crab friends. He had survived another frightful encounter, and he was still getting bigger every year.
|Chayne, Sue Lo and Carlie visiting Hermit Crabs|
PS: Hernando has had many visitors this year: Ethan, Evan, Kati, Emili, Kara, Nicolas, Carlie, and Chayne. He would like to thank everyone for being nice to him and his friends.
I know I have written about Hermit Crabs before, but Hernando wanted to tell his side of the experience!
Lynda and Lawrie