Largest Crab on Land: Meet the Coconut Crab

Coconut_Crab_Birgus_latro - Photo by Drew Avery
Coconut crab. Photo by Drew Avery.

You just got home from a long day at work. You’re miserable, tired, and cranky. “Tuesdays suck,” you mutter to yourself. “A nice shower should set me straight.” If only. You saunter into your bathroom, flip on the light, and are greeted by a truly horrifying sight: a giant, spider-like creature clinging to the rim of your bathtub. This is the coconut crab, the largest terrestrial arthropod.

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But pause the dramatics. Coconut crabs might look scary crabzillas, but they’re actually quite harmless and little more than naked, overgrown hermit crabs. Instead of feasting upon human flesh and babies, coconut crabs are omnivores that primarily eat fruit such as coconuts. However, they have been known to eat baby tortoises, other crabs, and even a Polynesian rat, so they’re not exactly helpless, innocent creatures.

Just watch how they devour a pig carcass in the video below:

As the largest terrestrial arthropods in the world, coconut crabs are bigger than even the largest spiders. They can attain a length of 16 inches (40 centimeters), a weight of up to 9 pounds (4.1 kilograms), and a leg span of more than 3 feet (0.91 meters). Few people would expect a hermit crab to hold this record.

Coconut_Crab_-_Birgus_latro - Photo by Drew Avery
Juvenile coconut crab with shell. Photo by Drew Avery.

Yet, as juveniles, coconut crabs are no different from their smaller relatives, and they even wear gastropod shells during the early stages of their life cycle. When they outgrow their shells, their abdomen hardens, so they no longer need to rely on cramped, second-hand shells for protection.

Coconut Crab

Watch what happened when a curious dog crossed paths with one of these giant crabs: