Hermit crab on sand (c) Nick Davies

Hermit crabs

The hermit crab is a favourite of rockpool enthusiasts. You can never tell if that old whelk or periwinkle shell is home to one of these crustaceans. A hermit crab appropriates shells to protect its soft twisted abdomen from predators. As the hermit crab grows, an overly snug shell is abandoned in favour of a larger abode.

One empty shell can trigger a property rush as crabs gather and simultaneously pass discarded shells down the housing chain to smaller individuals. There are more than 1,000 species of hermit crab. Despite the common name, they are more closely related to lobsters than true crabs. They are found in rockpools, throughout the shore and even in deep sea waters. Hermit crabs are widespread around the British coast.

Scientific name: Paguroidea

Rank: Superfamily

Watch video clips from past programmes (4 clips)

In order to see this content you need to have an up-to-date version of Flash installed and Javascript turned on.

Distribution

The Hermit crabs can be found in a number of locations including: Africa, Australia, Europe, Great Barrier Reef, Mediterranean, North America, South America, United Kingdom, Wales. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.

Habitats

The following habitats are found across the Hermit crabs distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Behaviours

Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

When they lived

Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.

Fossil types

Learn more about the other animals and plants that also form these fossils.

Exceptional preservation Exceptional preservation
Normally, only the hard parts of animals and plants - shell, bone, teeth and wood - are preserved as fossils. However, every now and then conditions permit the preservation of soft parts and create treasure houses of information for palaeontologists.

Video collections

Take a trip through the natural world with our themed collections of video clips from the natural history archive.

  • Seaside spectacular Seaside spectacular

    When it comes to summer holidays, there's no better place than the seaside and if you know where to look you'll be surprised at the wildlife you can find.

Elsewhere on the BBC

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.