Monday, November 08, 2010

Stretch and grab

Hermit crabs, like "true" crabs, are decapods; they have ten feet. Usually we see only 6, counting the chelipeds (pincers) as feet. The two pairs of back legs stay deep inside the chosen shell, holding it in place.

Grainy hand hermit, Pagurus granosimanus.

A couple of days ago, I caught a small hermit half-way out of his shell, stretching out to snatch another hermit's meal. In one of the photos I took, I got a clear shot of two of the back legs.


They are quite a bit shorter than the front legs, barely the length of one segment. When the hermit is wandering naked, looking for a new shell, he holds his abdomen tightly coiled, with the 4 tiny legs barely visible. Here, they're stretched out to keep a grip on the shell; he'll retreat 'way back into it, out of reach, once he gets that food.


  1. Wonderful photos! I love hermit crabs. We used to watch them on the bayside of Cape Cod for hours - or until the tide came in.

  2. I knew about those back legs on hermit crabs, but I don't think I've ever seen them before! What a great shot - that sneaky little food thief!


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