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KERMIT THE HERMIT  -  from an article previously published in the 'Guardian' - Nassau, Bahamas.

'Kermit' is actually a Soldier crab - a land-living Hermit Crab. This article is one of several written by Rod Attrill for educational use. 

When I moved into my house in Nassau, I discovered it already had an occupant. I found out about him one quiet night as I lay in bed. It was very dark and quiet when I was disturbed by a strange bumping sound. It was like a stone being slowly dragged across the concrete of the patio right outside my bedroom door. 

I must firstly explain that the house was arranged with all the rooms opening around a central courtyard. In the middle was a small lawn, some Banana plants and a couple of Fig trees. Naturally, with all this greenery, there was also a resident population of worms, wood lice, various bugs, and as we found out that night - Kermit!

I couldnít ignore such an unusual noise, so I got out of bed, switched on the light, opened the door and looked out. Just a few feet from the door, a battered old Whelk shell about three inches across was slowly making its way towards the grass. I bent to pick it up, and had my first meeting with Kermit the Hermit, a crab who continued to live on my patio for more than five years. 

I looked at Kermit and he looked at me, his antennae waving curiously. 

Kermit never became tame, never particularly friendly. Crabs just donít have the intelligence to adapt to new situations. They just do what crabs have always done, following the ancient urges crabs will no doubt continue to follow. They eat, they compete and they reproduce, and thatís about it! 

For all the years Kermit bumped around our patio at night, he would always retreat into his shell when someone passed by. The dogs got used to him, but he never got used to the dogs. For a while, one of our cats found Kermit fascinating, and spent hours rolling his shell around on the floor. That sport soon stopped though when the crab nipped the cat with his enormous claws! 

Most Hermit Crabs live in the sea. They breathe with gills, and sometimes grow to enormous sizes, carrying around one of the largest of tropical seashells, the Conch. On land though, without the support of water, big shells are too heavy, so the crabs can only grow big enough to carry around small to medium sized shells. 

Hermit crabs have a long twisted abdomen that fits neatly into a seashell. On its end are some special little legs with a non-skid surface. These can grip the smooth inside surface of the shell so it doesnít drop off when the crab moves. 

Kermit isnít really a Hermit Crab because Hermit crabs only live in the sea. Heís called a Soldier crab, but I couldnít think of a name to rhyme with Soldier, so he became Kermit the Hermit! Soldier crabs are close relatives of Hermit crabs, but they have fewer gills. So that they can live on the land, they also have blood vessels close to the skin. These can take in oxygen directly from the air. 

They have favoured shells. Little Soldier crabs use Winkle shells, while bigger ones use the Whelk. It seems the crabs donít actually know which shell to use, they just try a few things until they find something their body fits. I have seen them in the necks of broken bottles, and one was even seen in an old-fashioned glass inkwell! 

Kermit had a long and generally peaceful life, scavenging on left over dog food and some of the tropical fruit that fell to the ground. 

We never did find out what ultimately happened to him, but we did find his discarded shell one-day after returning from holiday. We think he must have been recycled into nature by the Ants and the Cockroaches. 

Whatever happened though, we like to think that Kermit was a happy crab! 


© Rod Attrill