Don’t Get in the Way of the Coconut Crab!

Did you ever have a hermit crab as a kid? You know, the little creatures who shed their shells for new models every so often? Well, its cousin, the coconut crab may look similar but definitely packs a bigger punch. Also known as Birgus latro, they are the largest land-living crustaceans on the planet. Coconut crabs are found on islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans, and also in Australia.

Feats of strength

Coconut Crab
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Japanese researchers Shin-ichiro Oka, Taketeru Tomita, and Kei Miyamoto recently found 29 coconut crabs on northern Okinawa to study. They ranged in size from less than a pound to 5 pounds. That’s downright small in comparison to the the largest ever measured, which weighed in at a whopping 9 pounds.

Researchers used their sample to estimate the 9-pound coconut crab could lift 66 pounds and exert about 750 pounds of force. This makes its pinch is stronger than the bite of nearly any animal except an alligator.

For a little perspective, a human bite from the molar exerts about 265 pounds of force. Coconut crabs most commonly use that force to crack open — you guessed it, coconuts — with their impressive claws.

Coconut Crab Pinch Like “Eternal Hell”

Oka unfortunately got to experience this intense force firsthand. He was pinched twice and said it felt like “eternal hell.” The claws were likely developed over hundreds of years of carrying shells. Similar to a hermit crab, researchers suspect that coconut crabs frequently changed shells early on in the evolutionary process. They now have a harder, more permanent exterior once fully grown.

In addition to cracking coconuts, their strong pincers come in handy when fighting off predators and scavenging for other sources of food.

As if the powerful pinch wasn’t enough, these crabs are, well crabby. As adults, they live alone in crevices or burrows and will attack other crabs that try to enter — even more reason to keep your distance!