Sunday, January 9, 2011

January 9, 2011 : Christmas Island Red Crab

Christmas Island Red Crab

The Christmas Island red crab, Gecarcoidea natalis, is a species of terrestrial crab endemic to Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Although restricted to a relatively small area, it is estimated that up to 120 million red crabs may live there, making it the most abundant of the 14 terrestrial crab species on Christmas Island. Christmas Island red crabs eat mostly fallen leaves and flowers, but will occasionally eat other animals, including other red crabs (see cannibalism) if the opportunity arises.
Christmas red crabs live in burrows for shelter from the sun. Since they breathe through gills, the possibility of drying out is dangerous. They are famous for their annual migration to the sea to lay their eggs in the ocean. During the migration, the crabs cover highways so densely that they are visible from the air. Volunteers shovel the crabs off the roads and, although no harm is intended, some of the countless millions inevitably get injured.

Early inhabitants of Christmas Island rarely mentioned these crabs. It is possible that their large population size was caused by the extinction of the endemic Maclear's Rat,
Rattus macleari in 1903, which may have controlled the crab's population.

An exploding population of the yellow crazy ant, an invasive species accidentally introduced to Christmas Island and Australia from Africa, is believed to have killed 15–20 million red crabs in recent years.

Related Articles
: Christmas Island Migration

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