The colorful hermit crab is a large hermit crab that lives along both coasts of South America. Like all hermit crabs, an individual of this species carries around a heavy shell that it uses for protection. It does not build this shell, however. Instead, it scavenges an empty snail shell from a variety of species and carries the shell with its tail and abdomen. As the colorful hermit crab ages, it must find new, larger shells that can accommodate its growing body.
Colorful hermit crabs are foragers that eat a variety of animal and plant prey and scavenge for dead and decaying organic matter. This species lives on sandy and muddy soft bottoms in deep habitats (like Patagonian fjords) and will eat just about it anything that it can find. Few species eat colorful hermit crabs, as they are fairly well protected by their shells.
Colorful hermit crabs reproduce via internal fertilization, when a male passes a packet of sperm to a female. To do so, both individuals must partially emerge from their shells. The female carries the fertilized eggs in her shell until they hatch, approximately one month later, at which time the larvae temporarily live a planktonic lifestyle until settling to the sea floor and searching for their first shells.
This species is not eaten and is not targeted by fisheries, but it is occasionally accidentally captured in fisheries targeting other species. Little is known about the population trends or conservation status of the colorful hermit crab, but it is likely not a species of concern.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.