Image for Moulting and mating

Moulting and mating

Duration: 04:00

Spider crabs spend most of their lives in deep water, but once a year off the coast of southern Australia, quarter of a million crabs set off on a long journey to the shallows to moult and mate. They all share in the same problem. As the crabs grow their armoured shells get uncomfortanbly tight. Each crabs has to grow a new shell and get rid of the old one, but this is no simple process. First the crab grows an entirely new skin underneath the old one. It then flexes its body to force its shell to split along the back before gingerly backing itself out. The crabs are also here to mate and grab the opportunity with considerable enthusiasm, but the commotion of so much activity attracts predators. Alarm spreads amongst the crabs as a stingray hovers over them. Stingrays are picky eaters and like to go for the newly moulted, soft-shelled crabs. However, once a target is singled out, there is little chance of escape. The ray positions itself over the crab and sucks it up.

Available since: Wed 25 Nov 2009


David Attenborough
Neil Lucas
Executive Producer
Michael Gunton

This clip is from

Life Creatures of the Deep

8/10 A look at marine invertebrates, including Humboldt squid, starfish and giant octopuses.

First broadcast: 30 Nov 2009

Image for Creatures of the Deep Not currently available on BBC iPlayer

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.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss