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Hermit crab

Hermit crab

(Various genra)

Hermit crabs are found throughout the world’s oceans. There are many different types represented by a wide range of shapes and sizes. All of them have one thing in common: they live inside an empty snail shell or similar shelter. They must do this because, unlike other crabs, hermit crabs lack a hard shell to protect their body. As individuals get bigger, they outgrow their shelter and must find another of suitable size and “move in”.

The various species of hermit crabs occupy a variety of habitats such as mud flats, tide pools and oyster beds in both intertidal and subtidal zones. Some hermit crabs are also found in deeper water offshore. These animals are generally scavengers that feed on dead plants and animals, as well as living algae.

Look for the hermit crab in one of the three touch pools in the Georgia Explorer gallery.

Fun Facts

  • If a hermit crab cannot find a suitable replacement shell, its growth and reproduction can be limited.
  • There are some offshore species that have been observed killing and removing snails from their shells in order to occupy the shell themselves.
  • Some hermit crabs prefer a heavier and larger shell for more protection while others seek a shell that is lighter and easier to maneuver.
  • Individuals have been found occupying an empty plastic or glass container instead of a snail shell.
  • The hermit crab can serve as a host to several different invertebrates, such as flatworms, snails and anemones.
  • Download full fact sheet

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