Giant spider crab sheds its shell

  • 07 August 2013 | Ann Kunz | Category: Education

Shaleen Bikka shows the old shell left behind after the spider crab moulted

One of uShaka Sea World’s giant spider crabs moulted recently, an intricate process that took seven hours and left behind a perfect replica of the arthropod.

As the moult began, aquarist Cameron Glancey separated the crab from others in the exhibit to afford her the privacy and space to shed her exoskeleton.

The procedure began at 07h30 in the morning and once complete, left behind an intact and delicate moult that was removed by aquarist Duncan Loukes. The moult will be displayed in the aquarium’s Education Centre once it has dried out sufficiently to be varnished.

Spider crabs (Macrocheira kaempferi), also known as Japanese crabs, are the world’s largest living arthropods. They are characterised by small, triangular bodies and very long legs. Males grow to approximately one metre in length and have a four-metre leg span. 

These crabs inhabit sandy and rocky ledges in deep waters of the continental shelf, where temperatures range between 11°C and 14°C. They are scavengers that feed predominantly on dead animals but are also known to feed on shellfish, opening the shells with their giant claws.

The giant spider crab is one of the longest-living creatures in the world, surviving for up to 100 years. 

The treasured moult is not likely to survive as long as its living owner, but as long as it’s on display in uShaka Sea World’s Education Centre, it will be used to educate around 100 000 or more learners about the miraculous life of one of the ocean’s most amazing creatures.

See a YouTube video clip of a spider crab moult in time-lapse mode by clicking here.

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