Saturday, 6 September 2008

Red Crab Island

Christmas Island supports a wide range of unique and unusual species and habitats, and is of great international conservation and scientific interest. There are 14 species of land crabs found on the Island, and the Red Crab is by far the most obvious. Millions of these bright red land crabs live in shady areas all over the island. Each year the crabs migrate to and from the sea in large numbers. This annual spectacle attracts the interest of national and international visitors as well as the local community.

Red Crabs are important in the Christmas Island rainforest ecosystem. They eat fallen vegetation, leaves and fruit, and recycle the nutrients contained in this material. Their burrowing turns and aerates the soil and they are a major determinant of the unique structure and composition of the Christmas Island forest by their selective browsing on seeds and seedlings. Long term scientific studies on the effect that Red Crabs have on the Christmas Island rainforest ecosystem are currently being carried out.
Location of Christmas Island

Aerial view of Christmas Island

During the migration, the island's human inhabitants just have to adapt

Red crabs are scavengers

There are around 120 million crabs on the march

The crabs navigate the same pathways year after year

The eggs hatch immediately on contact with the water

A female crab expels eggs from her brood pouch

After two weeks of marching, the first wave of crabs reaches the ocean

The weary travellers dip in the ocean to replace body fluids and salts

The weary travellers dip in the ocean to replace body fluids and salts

Red crabs begin their march from the forest to the sea, where they will reproduce

Baby crabs navigate their way into the rainforest ... and the ants

Red Crab

Crabs pop up in the most unexpected places

Christmas Island rainforest

For the islanders, encounters with crabs during the migration are just part of island life

Most of the time we just work around the crabs and take them for granted

Male Adult Red Crab

Female Adult Red Crab (Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to view PDF files.)

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