DailyMail A fearless tourist has returned home with the holiday snap of a lifetime after he encountered a giant crab on a tropical island in the Indian Ocean. Mark Pierrot was bold enough to pick up the massive coconut crab and hold it for the camera as he visited the jungle on Christmas Island. With terrifying claws that are powerful enough to crack coconuts, the alien-like crustacean is the largest land-living arthropod in the world, weighing up to 9lbs and measuring up to 3ft in length. It is estimated that tiny Christmas Island, an Australian territory, is home to more than a million coconut crabs – and they’re one of the reasons tourists visit. The monstrous crabs can climb trees but will drown in water, and are also known as robber crabs or palm thieves because they will get their claws on anything. Linda Cash, Christmas Island marketing manager, told AAP: ‘The reason they’re called robber crabs is because they steal everything. ‘If you leave something lying around, you can be pretty sure that a robber crab will take it away.’ She said the crabs have been known to steal shovels, drills and food, and there is an urban myth that one stole a rifle from a soldier who was stationed on the island decades ago. Nicknamed ‘crabzilla’ by those who have encountered it and shared their photos online, coconut crabs, a species of hermit crab, are found on many islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans, and once lived on mainland Australia. In addition to coconuts, their diet includes fruit, dead animals and other crabs. While the global population is not known, the crab is threatened by hunters, as residents of many islands consider their meat a delicacy and aphrodisiac. However, coconut crabs are protected on Christmas Island, where it is illegal to hunt and eat them. Those who do so can be fined AUD$5,500 (£2,700 or USD$4,000). Rachel Jones, head of the aquarium at London Zoo, once told MailOnline: ‘[The crab] lives in trees … and gets into all sorts of places. They have big jaws that can crack open coconut shells, and they also feast on rats and other crabs. ‘They can get pretty big, with a span of around 60 to 70 centimetres (23.6 to 27.5 inches). They are scary looking things.’
When I first looked at these photos, I thought that some sort of trick photography had to be involved, and this tourist must have been using an old fisherman’s trick and holding the crab closer to the camera to make it look much bigger than it actually is in life. As it turns out, that is not the case, massive coconut crabs are real and they are truly spectacular. Coconut crabs are the largest living anthropod, they can measure up to 3.3 feet across, and weigh over nine pounds. Coconut crabs were once found on mainland Australia and Madagascar, but were killed off by human populations, and now only survive on islands in the Pacific Ocean with little or no human population. Coconut crabs are strictly land crabs, they cannot breathe underwater like their cousins, and drown if submerged for long periods of time. Coconut crabs live in underground burrows, and despite being closely associated with the coconut due to the fact the coconut crab lines its burrow with coconut fibers, it’s diet consist of mostly soft fruit. Other than humans, who consider coconut crab meat both a delicacy and an aphrodisiac, adult coconut crabs have no natural predators.