Updated | You may imagine crabs as reclusive and shy creatures but new footage from the island of Chagos in the Indian Ocean shows the first images of a crab as a ferocious hunter, actively killing and ultimately eating a seabird. The video is surprising to say the least and helps reveal the secret lives of these mysterious crustaceans.
The breed of crab shown in the video is a coconut crab, and they are a far cry from Ariel’s sassy little sidekick, Sebastian. Weighing in at nearly nine pounds and measuring up to three feet from leg to leg, they are truly a force not to be reckoned with, New Scientist reported.
In the footage, we can see the massive crab use its claws to break the wings of a red-footed booby, a type of seabird that was sleeping in a nest in a tree. The coconut crab’s claws are able to crack through a, you guessed it, coconut shell, so breaking the bird’s wings was likely not difficult for the colossal crustacean. In addition, the red-footed booby is the smallest of all the boobies, and are only 25 to 30 inches in size, and weigh between 30 to 39 ounces.
According to National Geographic, the non-migratory birds live most of their lives on islands, either in the Atlantic, Pacific, or Indian oceans. They tend to nest above ground, either in trees or shrubs, but as seen in the video this is no problem for the coconut crab who can slowly yet surely climb to reach its victim. Along with coconut crabs, the biggest threats to these tiny seabirds are overfishing, which depletes their food source, and coastal developments that interfere with their nesting sites.
Breaking the bird’s wings caused it to fall out of its nest and onto the ground. Here the crab finished its attack, slowly descending to the ground to find its prey. Although this cannot be seen in the video, Mark Laidre, a researcher at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire who filmed the footage told New Scientist that five other coconut crabs eventually made it to the scene and together they tore apart the bird, eating bit by bit.
The crabs live on Pacific islands, and mostly eat coconuts, hence their name, Smithsonian reported. However, the giants are anything but gentle and if given a chance will devour pretty much anything they can get their claws on. Along with seabirds, the crabs have been known to eat kittens, and even other coconut crabs. In fact, some scientists suggest that the crabs would even be able to eat a dead or dying human if given the opportunity. And if that’s not enough to show you that there really is no limit to this animal’s appetite, according to Mental Floss, the coconut crab has been known to eat its own discarded body parts.
Laidre hopes to further investigate the crabs by setting up cameras at their burrows to see what they do in the privacy of their homes.
This story has been updated with additional information about the bird.