Fact Check

Coconut Crab

Photographs show coconut crabs?

Published Mar 2, 2009

Claim:   Photographs show coconut crabs.



[Collected via e-mail, August 2007]

Take a look at this photo of the Christmas island robber crab (another name for coconut crab). It was taken at the Detention Centre construction site.

Click to enlarge

[Collected via e-mail, February 2009]


The coconut crab is a large edible land crab related to the hermit crab and are found in the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans. They eat coconuts for a living! How would you like to be on an island and come across a crab that is more than 3 feet from head to tail and weighs up to 40 pounds, with a pair of large pincers strong enough to open coconuts! They can climb trees too, but they only eat coconuts that have already fallen to the ground. Coconut crab meat has been considered a local delicacy.

Click to enlarge


Origins:   The first photograph above initially circulated in August 2007 with text identifying it as a Christmas Island robber crab; in February 2009 it was joined with the second photograph above and a paragraph of text describing coconut crabs.

Although "coconut crab" might sound more like a dinner entrée at Red Lobster, it is the name of the critter captured in these pictures. Coconut crabs (also known as "robber crabs" because they are believed to have a magpie-like

penchant for taking shiny objects) are the world's largest land invertebrates (or terrestrial arthropods), a type of land-based hermit crab that eventually abandons carrying a shell as it matures and its soft abdomen hardens. Coconut crabs are found on tropical islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, typically achieve a body length of 16 inches with a leg span of more than 3 feet, and may live to be anywhere from 30 to 60 years old. They generally survive on a fare of plant matter such as fruit (including, of course, coconuts, which they crack with their powerful pincers), figs, and leaves, but from time to time they may also dine on turtle eggs and turtle hatchlings, the bodies of dead animals, and the occasional small live animal.

As described on Softpedia, coconut crabs also:

[A]re known to climb trees up to 20 ft. high. Their presence is betrayed by the pieces of coconut husks left at the entrance into their hollows (in rotten tree trunks fallen to the ground) as they bring food to their dens to eat safely. They are adapted to terrestrial life and will drown in the sea, as they breathe through lungs. During June-July, the crabs moult and stay hidden in their dens for up to 30 days.

The meat of this large crab is extremely appreciated, just like lobster or other crabs, and it is also considered an aphrodisiac.

Although the pictures and descriptions of coconut crabs included in the sample e-mail forwards reproduced above are realistic, we've listed this item as "partly true" because we haven't been able to ascertain the origins and authenticity of the first photograph. The second is authentic — it was taken in January 2006 on Christmas Island by Rebecca Dominguez.

Last updated:   8 March 2009



    Cross, Tom.   "The Amish Buck."

    The [Hillsboro] Times-Gazette.   10 October 2006.


David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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