from Stories of Bayou LifeI grew up living on the gulf coast, but when our family first moved to Cameron, Louisiana, in 1957, I met the funny little hermit crab for the first time.
My brother and I walked along the sandy coast in our bare feet on a hot June day. We saw the strangest thing. Shells were moving across the sand. When we approached them, the legs that had propelled them, withdrew into the shell. The strangest thing to me was that the shells didn’t seem to be of any specific type. I was eleven, and of course, I had to ponder on that. It was as if some pointy-legged thing had crawled into the shell and borrowed it to hide in. I had to figure this out.
I had nothing to carry them in, so I gathered a few of them in the skirt of my dress. My brother stuffed some into his pockets. Carrying as many as we could, we hauled them back home.
We set them down on the front porch and began our experiments. We tried to get them to come out of their shells. We learned if we turned them over, they'd come almost all the way out to right their shells. We had races with them, drawing a circle with chalk and seeing whose would leave the circle first. They were very entertaining at a time when we had no television. Well some folks did, but we didn't. We had to make our own fun. And, once Mama told us what they were, our hermit crabs were lots of fun.
That night, we put them in a box on the table. Surely they'd be safe there until we could play with them again in the morning.
But when morning came, the box was empty. Where did they go? We soon found them in every corner of the house, under furniture, and in shoes. Some of them had died in their attempt to find water.
We learned a valuable lesson. Don't take a creature out of its habitat no matter how fun it is to play with. We could walk to the beach and play with them in their home, but not ours.
Hermit crabs are not born in those shells. They use them to protect their bodies. When they outgrow the shell they are in, they look for a bigger one, and crawl in. That is why they are called hermit crabs. There's a lot more information on Wikipedia. Watch the video of a hermit crab changing shells. www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jZe_VGLRYI
Some people buy these crabs for pets, and keep them in an aquarium. But before you do this, be sure and get familiar with the care and feeding of them.