Housing Scheme

Housing Scheme It's tough being a hermit crab these days. Typically, these soft-bellied crustaceans protect themselves by living inside empty snail shells. But hermit crabs, today, face a housing crunch of epic proportions. People overharvest shellfish for food or pick up large numbers of shells on the beach to make door curtains or sundry other home embellishments, leaving very few seashells for hermit crabs.

In many parts of the world, these crabs have adapted. Ironically, they have been helped out of the housing shortage by trash left behind by humans. For instance, at Taiwan's Kenting National Park (knp), hermit crabs have taken to suitably persistent rubbish such as plastic containers, bottlenecks and bottle tops and light bulbs.

Human refuse hardly makes for stylish water fronts. But the hermit crabs can't do without homes. These creatures actually start their life cycles in the ocean, but venture out into land as soon as they attain adulthood, and only return to the deep waters for breeding. Once it crawls ashore, the crab needs protection from a variety of predators.

Usually, shells discarded by snails fit the bill, splendidly. What's more the crab's second home does not hamper its mobility: it just snuggles in on the creature's hind legs and protects its soft body, especially the abdomen

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