This story was first published on 23rd February 2009
Circulating message claims that attached photographs depict a very large type of crab called the Coconut Crab because of its ability to crack coconuts with its strong claws.
The information in the message is true and the photographs are genuine. The Coconut Crab is indeed classified as the largest land-living arthropod in the world. They live on the tropical islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Subject: LIKE COCONUTS?
Our friends in Australia sent us a picture of a Coconut Crab. This is pretty interesting…. Coconut Crab (Birgus latro) is the largest terrestrial arthropod in the world. It is known for its ability to crack coconuts with its strong pincers in order to eat the contents.
It is sometimes called the robber crab because some coconut crabs are rumored to steal shiny items such as pots and silverware from houses and tents.
The second photo gives you a good idea of how large these crabs are – a coconut crab is seeking food from a black trashcan.
First photo credit: Rebecca Dominguez – Flickr ID: bluebec
According to this message, which circulates via email and social media posts, the attached photographs show a coconut crab, which is the largest terrestrial arthropod in the world. The message claims that the crab is able to crack open coconuts with its strong claws.
The information in the message is true and the photographs are genuine. The top photograph was taken by Rebecca Dominguez in January 2006. The image is available in its original context on the flickr website under the flickr ID bluebec.
The coconut crab (Birgus latro) is indeed classified as the largest land-living arthropod in the world. They live on the tropical islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Coconut crabs are a kind of hermit crab.
Their large and powerful claws do enable them to crack open coconuts. Along with coconuts, the crabs are also known to eat fruit and a range of other organic material, including leaves, dead animals and the shells of other creatures. The crab is also known as the robber crab or palm thief because of rumours that they have a tendency to steal shiny objects such as silverware and pots from inside houses and campsites.
Meat from coconut crabs is considered a delicacy and in some cases even an aphrodisiac. However, the meat is sometimes toxic because of the plants eaten by the crabs and cases of coconut crab poisoning have been reported.
Not surprisingly, coconut crabs can give people a painful pinch with their claws and may continue to hold on tightly to their victims. Some reports suggest that rubbing the crab underneath its body may cause it to loosen its grip. The crabs are sometimes kept as pets, but require a sturdy cage that they cannot dismantle with their powerful claws.
Some have suggested that the second photograph depicting the Coconut crab on the garbage bin has been “photoshopped”. However, I have seen no compelling evince to suggest that the image has been manipulated. Garbage bins like the one in the photograph come in a variety of sizes, and the crab may well be on a bin somewhat smaller than the type many viewers might be familiar with.
The wording of the message gives the impression that the photographs were taken in Australia. However, as noted earlier, the species is native to tropical islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and is not found in its natural state in Australia.