The coconut crab is among the most impressive invertebrate living in the Chagos Archipelago
The crab (Birgus latro) is the world's largest terrestrial arthropod, with a leg-span of over a metre and weighing as much as 4kg. While it acts like a hermit crab in its early life, using empty coconut shells for protection, as it gets larger it dispenses with these.
Mature crabs can climb trees and even crack a coconut with their huge claws. On the islands of the Chagos Archipelago there are large populations of these crabs because of protection. Elsewhere it is a species that is threatened by over-collection, and is often used as fish-trap bait or as ornaments for sale to tourists. By protecting these healthy populations we can help to re-populate other habitats in the Indian Ocean region.
The coconut crabs here got their scientific name "latro" (or "robber") from their habit of wandering into camps and making off with items such as food, pots, pans and even bottles of whisky.
There are others here, from the chirping hermit crab (Coenobita rugosus), which draws its claw against its seashell home like a violin bow to confuse predators. The strawberry hermit crab (C. perlatus) boasts colours ranging from vibrant orange to deep red. The fearsome looking red-clawed land crab (Cardisoma carnifex) the swift and elegant horned ghost crab (Ocypode ceratophthalma) and the competitive, pincer waving fiddler crab (Uca tetragonon) can also be found on the islands.