• The Purple Pincher is native to the Caribbean, found from Florida to Venezuela. It is a tropical land hermit crab, slow-moving and nocturnal. It is reddish in color with dark red or purple claws. Hermits interact with one another and live in large colonies.
• Hermits have never been bred successfully in captivity, so all animals sold as pets are captured from wild habitats.
• Fertilized eggs grow attached to a female’s abdomen inside her shell, protected until they hatch into tiny larvae that float in the ocean. Land hermits must migrate to the ocean for their larval stages. At a certain point, the larvae settle on the ocean bottom and metamorphose into tiny juveniles, which then undergo a series of molts and must find tiny snail shells and then progressively bigger ones to live in. The land hermit crabs emerge from the water when quite tiny.
• As they grow, hermits continue to look for bigger and proper-fitting shells, just as children need properly fitting shoes. Hermits will challenge other hermits for their shells.
• Land hermits must live in areas of high humidity. Their gills must remain moist for the crabs to breathe. However, their gills do not allow them to be fully submerged underwater because they will drown.
• The left claw is typically the larger and is used as the protective covering to the opening of the shell when it retreats inside.
• The two sets of antennae are "chemosensory" organs, basically their sense of smell. Their eyes are on the ends of optic stalks.
• Species of hermit crabs are found throughout the world. There are land hermits like the ones sold in pet stores and marine hermits that can be found in the bays and estuaries of New Jersey.
SOURCES: Hermit Crab Association, Professor Judith Weis of Rutgers University; thecephalopodpage.org; hermit-crabs.com; “Hermit Crabs for Dummies;” pethermitcrabs.org; PetLoversCentre.com
CYNTHIA GREER and ANGELO FICHERA / Staff