The little arthropods must size up their shells often so hermit crabs queue up in size order and trade shells down the line.
This behaviour is quite remarkable, i mean who would expect a little crab to be so polite? If you’re still confused, don’t worry I’ll explain.
Hermit crabs occasionally come across a larger shell than their own and, upon inspection, realise it’s TOO big. They then stand waiting next to it until the next crab comes along. This process repeats until a large enough crab comes that the shell will fit. Once this happens, the next largest crab in the queue (who already arranged themselves in size order) will take that crabs shell. They then pass their shell down the queue and this continues so that every single crab gets a brand new shell. Remarkable.
But why do Hermit crabs need a shell?
Unlike their side-stepping relatives, hermit crabs have extremely fragile bodies. Combined with their relatively small stature, this leaves them frighteningly open to attack. To combat this, the little crustaceans must find abandoned shells to occupy. Imagine it’s halloween in the crab world and the hottest new trend is to dress as a snail.
The teency mollusc imposters wear their snail armour like tiny knights, safe from harm. Despite having exoskeletons that support their body, without a borrowed shell they are practically defenceless and easy pickings for any hungry fish.
Of course, eventually they grow too large and their lease expires. To put it literally, they outgrow their shells! This is expected since of course, the shells are more akin to clothing for the arthropods than parts of themselves.
When the time comes to upgrade their humble abodes, hermit crabs search for a larger shell. This leads us to the topic of this blog, hermit crabs queue up next to a desirable shell until they can trade for a shell of their own.
Which other animals queue up?
Surprisingly, hermit crabs aren’t alone in this behaviour. I encourage you to look into this peculiarly heartwarming behaviour yourself, because there is far more than i can cover here.
Baboons, for example, were recorded lining up by Dr Alecia Garter (university of Cambridge). Apparently, they were waiting for the most dominant male to inspect a food patch before entering it one by one. The order they entered matched their place in the social hierarchy.
If you wish to watch this clip for yourself, you can view it here on the BBC news website.
Further examples come from farms such as the Light Shine Animal Sanctuary, who shared a clip to their Facebook page of cows lining up for cuddles. It’s just as adorable and cute as you imagine. But furthermore, it’s amazing to see how other animals are capable of, without communication, forming an orderly queue.
Countless other sources show a variety of animals lining up and waiting their turn for things, from cows wanting cuddles to even dogs waiting to buy hot dogs! (I’m not joking)
But let’s not forget the star of this show, the humble hermit crabs, who wait for their friends so that they can all get a new shell together. Squad goals for sure.
Animal-Club provides animal parties or animal handling workshops. You will be able to see, learn and interact with many wonderful animals with the help of our presenters. Our mobile zoo has many friendly animals such as rabbits, tarantulas, geckos, vinegaroons and more, perfect for an animal party. We can also come over to your school for an animal school visit or arrange for an animal workshop with us where the children can learn about looking after animals and animal behaviour, and have fun too.