When you hear of a place called Christmas Island, you probably picture a winter wonderland filled with rosy-cheeked carolers and reindeer. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Instead, this tiny little blip in the Indian Ocean is home to some of the most bizarre creatures on Earth.
Mark Pierrot, a fearless Christmas Islander, certainly knows what it’s like to live amongst the eerie animals that reside alongside him. Recently, when he picked up one of the island’s most prehistoric monsters and posed for a picture with it, most people couldn’t believe it was even real. It is, and you won’t believe some of the things it’s known for…
While Mark Pierrot was no stranger to the unique wildlife that called his native Christmas Island home, even he was sometimes startled by the vibrant creatures that surrounded him.
Situated in the Indian Ocean, Christmas Island is actually a very small piece of land. Yet despite its name, this tropical paradise isn’t only home to a plethora of jolly people, but a slew of bizarre creatures. Few more so than the one Mark recently came across…
Most would have forgiven Mark if he ran in the opposite direction the moment he came face-to-face with this prehistoric monster on the beach. Instead, he casually picked it up and posed for a pic! So, what the heck was it?
This creature is what’s known as a coconut crab, a land-based (and gigantic) relative to the humble hermit crab. Astonishingly, these bad boys have the ability to grow up to three feet wide and can weigh as much as 10 pounds! That’s not all, either.
Coconut crabs can live for up to 120 years! Therefore, there’s a good chance the one that Mark picked up was older than he was and might have called Christmas Island home for several decades.
They can also climb trees, so there’s no escaping them on land. Although, if you head to water you’ll be safe; unlike most other crabs, they cannot swim and would actually drown.
Coconut crabs, like insects, use their antennae and strong senses of smell to find potential food. To obtain such incredibly powerful sensory capabilities, they have to commit almost all their brainpower to achieving it.
As Mark would tell you, coconut crabs are actually gentle giants and not much of a concern to their neighbors on Christmas Island. Nonetheless, their claws are strong enough to lift as much as 62 pounds!
With such strength comes the ability to do other things, too. For instance, when a coconut crab wants to eat a coconut—a preference that gave them their name—they use those powerful claws to crack them open.
“They use their claws to pull away the outer fibers,” ecologist Michelle Drew explained. “This can sometimes take many days and it often involves a number of crabs. They then use their longest walking leg to puncture a hole through the eyes of the coconut and then they can use their claws to pry open the shell further.”
Coconut crabs are also the largest terrestrial arthropod in the world. Just like other crabs, when they grow and gets older, they shed their exoskeletons. For the coconut crab, this is a yearly activity.
Perhaps the creepiest thing about this molting process is that, once the crab emerges from its shell, it’s much more vulnerable to attack—and it needs to protect itself. In order to hasten the process of growing a new protective armor, it will consume its previous exoskeleton!
“[Coconut crabs] that are disturbed before they have consumed the entire shell often have soft exoskeletons until they have time to re-accumulate the necessary calcium and other minerals,” Michelle said of the molting process.
While no one has ever witnessed a coconut crab being aggressive towards a human, there have been records of them ambushing and making a meal of young chickens, dogs, and even kittens. There is one theory about them being responsible for one human incident, though…
This incident actually involved the famed pioneering pilot Amelia Earhart, who disappeared in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the globe. So what did she have to do with coconut crabs? Well…
It’s commonly believed that Amelia Earhart crashed her plane on the remote island of Nikumaroro. Some theorize that coconut crabs carried off her remains and consumed them!
To test the coconut crab theory, a group of researchers tracked how the creatures responded to the scent and sight of a pig carcass. Startlingly, just a few days later, they had stripped it of its flesh and completely scattered the bones.
The researchers claimed that, in theory, coconut crabs could have done the same to the pilot’s body. That would certainly lend some explanation as to why researchers have had such a hard time correctly identifying her remains.
Of course, too much time has since passed to ever truly know what happened to Amelia Earhart, and it’s likely that the evidence on Nikumaroro is just coincidental. Still, knowing that coconut crabs could consume a human body is a terrifying realization…
Luckily, these crabs only live on islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Even though they don’t pose a direct threat to humans, most of us still wouldn’t want to encounter one. Then again, people like Mark don’t seem to mind them much at all!
Coconut crabs are the perfect mix of creepy and fascinating. They’re fun to look at from a computer screen, but you surely wouldn’t want to come face-to-face with one!
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