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Coconut crab facts for kids

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Coconut crab
Conservation status
Scientific classification
B. latro
Binomial name
Birgus latro
Linnaeus, 1767
Coconut crabs occur on most coasts in the blue area

Burgus latro (lapsus)

The Coconut Crab (Birgus latro) is a species of terrestrial hermit crab, also known as the robber crab or palm thief. It is the largest land-living arthropod in the world, with a weight of up to 4.1 kg (9.0 lb). It can grow to up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in length from leg to leg. It is found on islands across the Indian Ocean and parts of the Pacific Ocean as far east as the Gambier Islands mirroring the distribution of the coconut palm; it has been extirpated from most areas with a significant human population, including mainland Australia and Madagascar.

Adult coconut crabs feed on fruits, nuts, seeds, and the pith of fallen trees, but will eat carrion and other organic matter opportunistically. Anything left unattended on the ground is a potential source of food which they will investigate and may carry away - thereby getting the alternative name of "Robber crab." The species is popularly associated with the coconut palm, yet coconuts are not a significant part of its diet. Although it lives in a burrow the crab has been filmed climbing coconut and pandanus trees. There is no film showing a crab selectively picking coconut fruit, though they might dislodge ripe fruit that otherwise would fall naturally. Climbing is an immediate escape route (if too far from the burrow) to avoid predation (when young) by large sea birds, or cannibalism (at any age) by bigger, older crabs.


Coconut crabs live in the Indian Ocean and the central Pacific Ocean, with a distribution that closely matches that of the coconut palm. Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean has the largest and densest population of coconut crabs in the world. Large populations exist on the Cook Islands, especially Pukapuka, Suwarrow, Mangaia, Takutea, Mauke, Atiu, and Palmerston Island.

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