Storytime 11

inverted thinstripe hermit crab Clibanarius vittatus blowing defensive bubbles
This week, we travel out to the shores of the Cape Fear River near Fort Fisher, just south of the ferryboat landing, to a little marshy area that The Girlfriend and I visited many years ago (and once since.) Wasting some time before the ferry to Southport came along, we abruptly realized that the whole region was literally crawling with thinstripe hermit crabs (Clibanarius vittatus) – or at least, that’s what I believe the species is. I would encounter them regularly in Florida, but there they seemed to live wholly aquatic lives, while the ones here were doing extensive time on shore. The bubbles that this one is blowing are a clue that it’s an aquatic species however, since they have to at least keep their gills moist while foraging on land, and this moisture also serves to produce a defensive display of bubbles that helps keep out the smaller predators. In this case, I might ignorantly speculate that it could also have been caused by being inverted, changing the water level within the shell, but I wouldn’t bank any money on that.

As hideous as this might seem, this close and with those pointy hairy legs and so on, they were actually quite cute, ambling all over the place through the marsh grass, retracting suddenly, and usually quite briefly, when spooked. Wait a minute without making any movement, and they would reappear slowly, checking for further action, before re-emerging and continuing on their way, which is how I got that image. I cropped it down for detail, but maybe it’s not as bad when it’s further back in more of a setting, without as much spiky creepy detail?

thinstripe hermit crab Clibanarius vittatus, wider view
I also attempted a few to show just how many crustaceans there were in the immediate vicinity, but the small size of the crabs meant that I could show something actually identifiable as a hermit crab, or a landscape dotted with things that might be stones or shells or whatever, but not both.

As I remarked within the second linked post, I returned to the same spot to try and get more and better photos, a year-and-a-half ago, but did not have much luck. I credit this to being there much later in the day, but maybe this one had spread the word since then and I was too recognizable.

Now, here’s a funny (but ultimately pointless) bit of speculation. I grew up mildly arachnophobic, and can’t really pin down how or when this might have occurred, with there being some debate in scientific circles that it might actually be genetic to a degree; the number of legs and the actions thereof spark off some kind of instant recognition thing deep in the recesses of the mind, and at times I can believe this, because certain actions of spiders can still give me the willies.

Crabs, however, are not that different, and have the same number of legs (if you ignore the pincers anyway,) yet I find crabs adorable and fascinating. Even though I’ve had a couple draw blood on me, something no spider has ever done. Make of that what you will.

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