Tale of a Hermit Crab

It’s a short one. 

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One of the hazards of being a hermit crab on an atoll in the South Pacific (and there are many) is inhabiting a shell coveted by a beachcomber.  The peril increases when the crab is a little too inconspicuous inside his small fortress and the beachcomber takes no notice of his presence.

Such was the fate of one hermit crab who inhabited a beautiful white shell that resembled the horn of a legendary unicorn (in miniature).  I found this shell, saw it had a hole in the side and assumed the former occupant had been eaten by whatever had made the hole.  I took it back to the boat and stuck it on the wall in our bedroom with sticky gum for safe keeping.

A couple days later I discovered a naked hermit crab the floor.  There’s something about seeing a tiny crab in his birthday suit making his way across one’s bedroom floor in a futile search for a shell that makes one feel instant affinity for the vulnerable creature.  Besides, I was responsible for his homelessness.  I scooped him up and put him in a bowl.  We offered him the limited selection of shells we had on board, including the white one we assumed he’d come from.

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Not surprisingly, that’s the one he picked.

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The geometry of that shell seemed more than a little awkward to us, so we scoured the boat once more for more potential shell houses (besides, I wanted that shell back).  We ended up taking one of the shells K brought back from Africa off a window shade, where it’d been hanging for years.  I pried all the Elmer’s glue out of the inside and offered it to Crabby (or Herme, as K dubbed him).  He didn’t seem interested in transferring, so we just left it in his container overnight.  By the next morning, he’d made his move.  A wise choice, we thought.  This one was much more appropriately sized, more maneuverable, and had fancy long intimidating spikes.

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During his brief stay with us we supplied Herme with all the coconut and fresh water he seemed to desire.  Still, once in a while we’d catch him peering through the walls of his bowl with a far off look of yearning in his eyestalks.  We kept him as a pet for just a couple of days until we could take him back where he belonged.  I set him on the beach and he never looked back.

16°26.45’S 143°57.23’W 26-May-10 18:41 PDT

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