When Charles Darwin laid eyes on a coconut crab for the first time, the only word that came to his mind was "monstrous."
These colossal crustaceans resemble creatures from a science fiction film, with their tough exoskeletons and enormous claws.
Coconut crabs have a diverse diet, ranging from fruits and birds to even larger animals. Interestingly, some experts speculate that they might have even consumed Amelia Earhart.
The Coconut Crab
The coconut crab holds the title of being the largest land-dwelling arthropod in the world. These remarkable creatures can have a leg span of up to three feet and weigh as much as nine pounds.
Their front legs are equipped with massive claws that they use to crack open coconuts, with the strength to lift objects weighing up to 64 pounds.
During Charles Darwin's time, numerous tales circulated about the astonishing and terrifying abilities of the coconut crab. Stories spoke of their tree-climbing skills and their ability to dangle from a single pincer for hours.
There were accounts of their grotesque claws capable of breaking through coconuts, and even rumors of these giants being able to tear apart a human being.
These stories do have some truth to them. The coconut crab's claws are among the most powerful weapons in the animal kingdom and can indeed break through a coconut.
As their name suggests, coconuts are a significant part of their diet, and without their strong claws, they would not be able to access this food source.
However, the coconut crab is an opportunistic eater and will consume a wide variety of items. They feed on other fruits, and in some cases, they will hunt and kill birds or even live pigs.
These crabs may also scavenge on the carcasses of other crabs and even devour their own exoskeleton after molting.
Where does the Coconut Crab Live?
The coconut crab is found in various locations across the Indian and Western Pacific oceans. The largest population can be found on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.
They are also present on the Cook Islands, including Pukapuka, Suwarrow, Mangaia, Takutea, Mauke, Atiu, and smaller islands like Palmerston. Additionally, coconut crabs can be found on the Seychelles.
Did Coconut Crabs Eat Amelia Earhart?
The disappearance of Amelia Earhart has puzzled historians and scientists for many years. The prevailing belief is that she crash-landed in the Pacific Ocean during her attempt to fly around the world, leading to her tragic drowning.
Since her remains have never been found, this explanation seemed the most plausible for her vanishing. However, there is another theory put forth by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR). They suggest that the coconut crab may have played a role in Amelia Earhart's fate.
On July 2, 1937, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were attempting to land on Howland Island in the Pacific. According to TIGHAR, they may have mistakenly landed on Nikumaroro instead, as they couldn't locate their intended destination.
The theory continues with the belief that Noonan eventually died, the plane floated away from the reef, and Earhart was left alone on the island with no other humans present.
Three years later, thirteen bones were discovered on the island, which were initially thought to belong to Amelia Earhart. However, the bones were sent to Fiji for examination but unfortunately went missing during transportation.
What Happened To The Other 206 Bones Of Earhart's Body?
According to TIGHAR, the coconut crab plays a role in their theory. When the bones were discovered, coconut crabs had scattered them around. The organization proposes that after Amelia Earhart's death, the crabs likely consumed her body and carried her bones back to their burrows.
To test this theory, TIGHAR conducted an experiment to see if the crabs would bring bones back to their burrows. They placed a pig carcass in the area where Earhart might have been, and as expected, the crabs, along with strawberry hermit crabs, swarmed the body.
Within two weeks, the crabs had removed most of the flesh from the pig carcass. A year later, they found that the crabs had dragged some of the bones as far as sixty feet. However, they were unable to locate all of the remains.
The Dogs Are On The Scent
In 2001, potential evidence of an American castaway was discovered on the island. This included the remains of several campfires and various items like a jackknife, a woman's compact, a zipper pull, and glass jars.
In 2017, TIGHAR brought forensic dogs to the site, and the dogs indicated that they had found an area where someone had died.
Although they did not find any bones at that time, TIGHAR remains hopeful. The organization still believes that they will uncover the source of the scent that the dogs detected.
They are optimistic that they will eventually locate the exact spot where the coconut crabs carried Amelia Earhart's remains many years ago.
Should You Fear The Coconut Crab?
If you live in North America, chances are you won't encounter a coconut crab face-to-face. However, if you ever find yourself in an area where coconut crabs live, it's important to exercise caution.
Coconut crabs generally don't bother humans unless provoked. In fact, humans pose a greater threat to them than they do to us. It's possible that Amelia Earhart was the only person known to have been harmed by one of these creatures, and yet humans have almost driven them to extinction.
Of course, if you ever happen to encounter one of these frightening creatures, it's natural to feel afraid. They have a scary appearance, and it's probably best not to stick around for a photo opportunity.