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SPIDERS OF THE SEA.
By C. F. HOLDER.
QUITE a number of years at once, and a few moments later the crab may be
In a box, reposing on sinks securely upon the bottom, where in two days soft beds of seaweed, were a new shell has hardened, and its existence as a layers of crabs all busily regular crab commences,- all the changes, in
engaged, so it seemed, in some species, having occurred during four days. blowing bubbles that glistened in the sun with many Such is the babyhood of crabs in general throughrich tints and colors. Some of the hard-shells had out the world. numbers of eggs attached to them, and as the On the beaches of the Middle States the sandold gentleman stood looking at them, the thought crabs and “calling-crabs” are the most common, entered his mind, “Why not start a crab-farm and and in Normandy the sand-crabs are the means of save all the trouble of fishing for crabs ?”
great sport to the frequenters of the beach. A As he was a very enterprising old gentleman, number are caught and decorated with the colors the project was forth with put into execution. An of their captors, who arrange them in a row, each immense floating tank was built, through which keeping a finger on the back of his champion. At the water was allowed to flow in and out; and in the word “Go," they release them, the entire body this hundreds of crabs carrying eggs were placed. of crabs rushing down the beach in a headlong, An old colored man was engaged to attend to or endwise, race to the sea, the owners following their wants, and in a short time he reported that eagerly after them to note the first crab that reaches the bottom of the tank contained numbers of very the water and to claim the prize. small empty shells, but that no young crabs were These crabs live in holes in the sand, and at the to be seen. The crab-farmer thereupon took some beginning of winter pass into a deep sleep, called of the water out in a glass jar, and found to his hibernation; in the spring they dig their way oui, surprise that it contained vast numbers of hideous showing great skill as miners. little creatures with enormous horns. Here, then, But it is as articles of food that crabs are most was the trouble; the horned animals were eating valued. Thousands of barrels of them are sent to the eggs, thought the old gentleman. So the col- the markets of the great cities; and in southern ored man was directed to strain them out, and did countries they take the place of the lobster. In so with such effect that they soon disappeared. the United States the great green crab, hard or
Not until the crab-farm had been given up as a soft, is preferred for the table. failure by the old gentleman, did he learn that The most noted locality for catching them is the these same little horned animals that he had waters of Chesapeake Bay, in the extensive mud flats worked so hard to get rid of were the young crabs about the mouth of the James River. The process themselves.
of “treading” for them consists in walking over He was not the only person that has been so the flats, feeling with bare feet for the soft-shell deceived, however. Only half a century ago these crabs; and as there is a strong belief among the little horned creatures were considered separate darkies who do the treading, that a soft-shell crab and distinct animals, until finally a naturalist made is always guarded by a hard-shell mate, the walking the discovery that they were the crabs themselves, is not free from suspense. The soft-shell is easily in one of the curious early stages of their growth. felt and lifted up by a dexterous movement of
Soon after ieaving the egg, the baby-crab, with the toes, or by a scoop-net; but sometimes the inits queer horns, is apparently seized with violent quisitive foot of the treader interrupts a meeting of convulsions, and in a moment wriggles out of its hard-shells, and a few nips from these are enough skin and appears in an entirely new guise, called to make the agonized treader hurry into his skirias the “large-eyed ” stage. The new shell hardens rapidly as possible.
The hard-shell crabs are caught in deeper and clearer water. An iron barrel-hoop with mosquito netting bound upon it constitutes the net, which, when baited and lowered into the water, is soon filled with the pugnacious fellows. When hauled in they cling to one
another, those within the net refusing to re
lease those without, and show their
tenacity to the last. The crabs
are packed in barrels of
Baltimore, in queerlooking, doublesailed boats; and
city, they are shipped to various other markets
throughout the country. The softshell crab
is one that has just molted, or completely cast off
its shell and the coverings of its joints. Off the coast of Scotland the crab fisheries are almost as
important as those of the lobster on our own shores. But in 2 h huzent
Scotland, when the crabs are caught, they are marked or
branded by their owners and tossed into a single car, which when full is towed to the nearest market. By the upsetting of one of these cars, it was discovered that the crab had a decided love for home, or special localities. A car alongside the dock at Falmouth,
HARD-SHELL CRABS HOLDING ON TO ONE ANOTHER.
England, was broken up by a vessel, and all the and it would be hard to tell whether the man or marked crabs made their escape. A few days later, the crab was the more terrified. however, great numbers of them were retaken at Those of the St. NICHOLAS readers who live in Lizard Point, where they had been caught origi. the vicinity of Boston will find a fine specimen of
this great sea-spider, though not of the largest size, in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Surpassing even the great Japanese crab in strength, however, is the famous palm, or robber crab, of the Indian Ocean, a land hermit that exceeds two feet in length. In the Spice Islands they are considered great delicacies, and at Hila, Professor Bickmore saw two at the house of the assistant resident that were being fattened for the table like pigs. The palm-crab is found in
THE GREAT JAPANESE CRAB.
nally. After escaping from the car and into the
A ROBBER-CRAB LIFTS A GOAT FROM THE GROUND. the others in the night by yells and screams. Running to the spot, they found that one of these the cocoa-nut groves, living in holes beneath the monster crabs in wandering over the flats had trees and subsisting upon the fruit, tearing the accidentally crawled over the prostrate fisherman. husks from the nuts with its powerful claws and He awoke with the great claws moving about him, conveying it to its nest for use as a lining, or bed. The nests are often pillaged by the Malays, who cedars, the nest being merely a mass of dried twigs use the shreds of husks in calking their vessels dropped upon the tree in the rudest manner possible. and in the manufacture of mats and various arti- When the young bird is hatched, it is kept well cles. The palm-crabs possess no little intelligence, supplied with small fishes by the parent noddy; as they always open the end of the cocoa-nut that contains the eye-spots; shred by shred the husk is torn away, and finally, when the eyes appear, the crab hammers them repeatedly with its large claw until an opening is made. Sometimes the crab will secure so firm a hold upon the nut with its large claw that it can dash it against a rock until the nut-shell is broken.
The robber-crab of the Samoan Islands, called the “Ou Ou," adopts still another method. * It first ascends the tree and brings down the fruit; then, after husking it, the crab returns again to the tree and hurls or drops the nut to the ground until it is broken. One naturalist tells of a robber-crab that seized a goat by the ears as it was passing along under a tree, and fairly lifted it from the ground.
There is another crab which is equally powerful, and Captain Mosely informed the late Mr. Darwin, that upon confining one in a tin cracker-box it forced down the edges of the metal, punching numerous holes through the tin, and ultimately escaped. In appearance they resemble huge spiders. They stand a foot or more from the ground, and brandish their enormous claws with a clattering noise as they move along, a warning to all intruders. They deposit their eggs in the sea.
The common hermit-crabs, to which the robber-crabs are related, are found both on land and in the sea, and I have frequently seen a large hermit-crab near Loggerhead Key, but the arrival of these luxuries is closely watched Florida, carrying about a heavy shell with perfect by a horde of pirate-crabs. The large purpleease. In some places, the beach is almost entirely backed land-crab crawls from holes in the sand; formed of shells, each the home of a land hermit- the red-tinted fellow known as the Grapsus apcrab, and I have often watched the hermit-crabs of pears as if by magic, while innumerable hermitBird Key during the breeding season of a sea-bird crabs with shells of every conceivable pattern move called the Noddy, when a continual struggle for onward toward the nest. Some climb neighborfood is carried on between them and the birds. ing bushes, or low trees, and drop down upon The Noddy builds its nest upon the low bay- the baby-bird; others ascend the trunk of the
* On the authority of Mr. T. H. Hood, in his “Notes on a Cruise in H. M. S. 'Fawn' in the Western Pacific."
tree, until finally every branch and twig about the The purple, or land-crab, is found all over the nest is occupied by a robber-crab, while the young world, and in the West India Islands they commit bird, with wing erect, vainly endeavors to retain great ravages upon the plantations of sugar-cane. the fish. It is soon in the claws of the advancing On some of the more unfrequented islands in May
or June, these crabs make a remarkable pilgrimage. They live for the greater part of the year upon the highlands several miles from the sea; but once a year, at the season named, they leave their holes, and move at night in vast columns, often three miles long and two hundred and fifty feet wide, to the sea, where they deposit their eggs.
Nothing seems to deter this great army; the march being kept up with an undaunted perseverance that overcomes all obstacles. At this time they are caught in large numbers for the table, as on the return march to the hills they are in poor condition, and soon undergo the molting process.
One of the most interesting examples of intelligence among the sea-crabs, is that of a hermit-crab, which seems to have a perfect understanding with a seaanemone, that fastens itself upon its shell, and shares the food the crab may capture. This might be considered an accidental occurrence, were it not that the crab proves its friendship by assisting the anemone to move to its new shell, when, by reason of its growth, the crab has to change its quarters; and if the anemone is not satisfied with one shell, the crab tries others until its friend is suited.
A similar friendship exists between another hermit-crab, found in the Mediterranean Sea, and an anemone which accompanies it. In this case the friend
ship is not altogether disinterthrong, that, closing in from all sides, unites in ested, as the anemone is used as a decoy by the a general battle, in which the piratical crabs fall wily crab, which gives it board, lodging, and travin a shower to the ground, where the combat is eling accommodations, in return for its services. renewed, and the largest crab finally bears away The crabs, called by scientists Dromia, encour
age the growth of various animals and plants upon The Grapsus displays no fear of the young bird, their backs, and the spider-crab of our own shores and a well-known scientist once saw a crab of this known as the decorator, is invariably found bearing kind capture and carry off the young noddy itself. upon its back a thick growth of sea-weed, placed