Science

Giant coconut crab seen hunting birds

Giant coconut crab seen hunting birds”

Researcher Mark Laidre from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire in America, filmed the macabre sight which may shed new light on the behaviour of this species and he spoke to New Scientist about the incredible discovery.

It was the first time this hunting of a large, vertebrate animal had been observed among coconut crabs, which are the world's largest land-dwelling invertebrates, reaching up to 3 feet wide and weighing up to 9 pounds.

It then plunged its powerful claw, which has the strength of a lion's jaw, into the bird, breaking it's wing and sending it crashing from the tree to the sand below.

'It was pretty gruesome, ' Mr Laidre said.

Laidre said he was fascinated by a story told to him by a witness in 2014. During one observation session, he saw one coconut crab about to kill a red-footed booby, which was a rare sighting. "As the bird stood there, the crab slowly emerged from its underground lair, approaching the bird from behind. The booby struggled and pecked at the crab, but the crab retained its grip with both claws, kicking at the bird with its ambulatory legs".

According to the original report, the crab didn't just attack and kill the bird, but it also fed on it. Thankfully they're relatively slow moving, so you probably won't suffer the same fate as this unfortunate bird, but whatever you do, don't fall asleep next to one. They are common in coral atolls across the Indian and Pacific Oceans and can be the largest animal in their environment.

The creepy-crawly here is a coconut crab, so named because their size and remarkable pinching force allows them to slice open tasty coconuts and feast on them.

Chagos is ideal for studying coconut crabs: it is in pristine condition, is surrounded by one of the largest marine reserves on Earth and has lots of coconut crabs, making them easier to find and observe.

According to Laidre's surveys, birds are less likely to live on islands where coconut crabs live, and vice versa, the Guardian reported.



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