The Tastiest Crab You'll Never Want to Meet

The Vegetarian Coconut Crab

A large male crab.
A large male crab. | Source
A young coconut crab already shows it's claw strength.
A young coconut crab already shows it's claw strength. | Source

Coconut tree climbing

Notice the bind holding the climbers feet together.  This will provide resting stops - especially on long climbs such as this.
Notice the bind holding the climbers feet together. This will provide resting stops - especially on long climbs such as this. | Source

Coconuts crabs can climb trees

The crabs claws are very strong and can easily pull it's body up the length of a tree.
The crabs claws are very strong and can easily pull it's body up the length of a tree. | Source

Coconut Crab Soup

Coconut milk is usually the main additive in soups for this crab.
Coconut milk is usually the main additive in soups for this crab. | Source

Young hermit-like coconut crab

Juvenile crab must hide it's fragile body from predators in a shell... sea shell, coconut shell, it's all good.
Juvenile crab must hide it's fragile body from predators in a shell... seashell, coconut shell, it's all good. | Source

Two care-free kids climbing coconut trees

When I was much younger, my family took a vacation to the island of Samoa. It was summer, and the heat was unyielding. I recall every time that I came in from playing outside, my shirt was always wet - either from the ocean water, or from just plain kid sweat.

I became fast friends with my cousin Maota (Mow-tah) we started hanging out together from the start. We quickly compared our lives as it was on separate islands - my island being Hawaii. Current songs on the radio that I liked never made it to Samoa - the songs that they listened to on the radio was about a year or so behind.

One of the joys we shared was climbing trees - coconut trees in particular. For Maota, it was a way of life. Back then, they cooked most of the meals outside by fire in an area loosely called "umu" (oomoo). The coconut was used for oils, as well as for meals, and the leaves were used for weaving baskets and cooking. In Hawaii, we were farther ahead in technology, and unlike our Polynesian counterparts in Samoa, making an umu became a big event, for very special occasions. In Samoa, it was an everyday event, and a task left up to the boys of the family.

One especially hot July day, we went by the Oceanside where very tall coconut trees grew. They swayed like hula dancers in the lightly blowing trade wind. It must have been 30 feet tall in my boyhood's eyes, but realistically, was probably only 10. I stripped my t-shirt off and used it to tie my ankles together. When you climbed a coconut tree, you grabbed the trunk with both hands, and hopped both feet up the tree, keeping them together. If you needed to rest during the climb, you simply sat back on your feet. The tied ankles would support your weight as you sat.

I quickly scaled the tree and thought highly of my skill, when I was about three feet from the coconut bunch I noticed big crab-like legs wrapped around the tree. I thought it was part of the tree's natural brown mesh that was just shaped like crab legs. I looked at it more closely and it turned to look at me - it's red beady eyes and over sized claws warned me of what was to come. It screamed at me - no, that was me.

I screamed like a girl, loosed my hold on the tree, and free-fell halfway down with only my feet in contact with the tree. When I realized that I was falling, I desperately grabbed at the tree hugging it to me which resulted in scrapes on my chest and chin. I mindlessly jumped the rest of the way down, missing the small rock pile just a few feet away. Maota was laughing and was still on the ground as I recovered. Apparently, he saw the crab on the tree earlier and was just waiting to see how I would react.

When he was empty of all his laughing, and scream-mimicking, and 'I'm telling your dad you swore!', and laughed some more, he finally stood up and pulled me up. He then grabbed a rock from the ground and flung it up into the tree with expert marksmanship, and down came this alarmingly large clawed crab. It was even more hideous the more I looked at it... so we ate it. By the way, Samoans are rock throwing experts!



Coconut party

It's a party of crabs in a coconut
It's a party of crabs in a coconut | Source

Coconut Crabs Thrive Where Humans Are Not

The Low Down on Coconut Crabs

Coconut crabs are a relative of the hermit crab, and like the hermit crab they have a soft shell that has to be protected. At 5 years, reproductive maturity is reached. On dry land, the male fertilizes the females eggs, and the female will release the eggs in the ocean. The eggs are plank-tonic and finally settle to the ocean floor after 3 - 5 weeks. Soon there after, the little crabs will find shells, and exit the ocean. The crab will shed it's shell when its own exo-skeletal shell hardens.

The coconut crab can weight up to 9 pounds, and grow to a ripe age of 60 years. Although it is called the coconut crab, it rarely eats just coconuts. The crab will eat fruits, nuts, and other seeds as opportunity presents. The coconut crab appears everywhere in the Pacific and Indian oceans where there are coconut trees, but are widely hunted where ever there are people. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the coconut crab specie as Data Deficient - it means that there is not enough data on the count and distribution of the specie.

Coconut crab anyone?

Have you ever heard of the coconut-tree-climbing coconut crab?

  • No. This is the first I've heard of it.
  • Yes. I have heard of them before, but never saw them myself.
  • Yes. I had one for dinner last week.
See results without voting

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Comments 16 comments

KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 2 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

That was fun - and still going on today in Samoa. Always good to hear from you, Cheers and peace. Kawi.


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

Nice little insight into Samoan life Kawi, and a funny story too. I can imagine the scene! Alun


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Thanks for your comment FlourishAnyway, yes, I had fun writing this one, brought back a lot of laughs - tried to contact my cousin in the process but he is whereabouts unknown right now. I hope to meet up with him one day for pay back. Peace. Kawi.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

Funny story. You owed your cousin one for seeing the crab but letting you shimmy up the tree anyway. I've never heard of this critter and certainly haven't eaten it, but I might be tempted. Loved your easy writing style, too. It felt like a friend was telling me a story. Voted up and funny.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

I'm glad you enjoyed it AliciaC, I had fun writing it - it brought back fond memories of being a kid again. Thanks for your comment. Peace. Kawi.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

This is a very interesting story, Kawi! It's a great look at a way of life that is unfamiliar to me. I enjoyed reading about the life of the coconut crab, too.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Yes, there too - smart little suckers these... I find it simply amazing that they appear the 'crab on steroids', and although they have the size and strength to be a threat to animals lower down on the food chain, that they instead are vegetarian. All I have to say is, I'm sure glad they like coconuts and not me! Peace. Kawi.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Thanks wyws, I had a fun time putting this one together - lots of memories... Thanks for the comment. Peace. Kawi.


writeyourwrongs profile image

writeyourwrongs 3 years ago from Sheffield

nice storytelling!


Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 3 years ago from Hawaii

Man, what a crazy looking crab! I'd heard of them but for some reason it hadn't clicked that it was vegetarian. I'm used to seeing people catch blue crabs using chicken meat.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 3 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Thanks UnnamedHarald, I had a lot of fun bringing back those memories - even tried to get in touch with my cousin who is still in Samoa, but unsuccessful as of yet. Peace. Kawi.


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I was going to do an article on the coconut crab, but there's no way I could top this! Great hub!


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 4 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Thanks for the comment faythef, we are still great friends and have been for years. Peace. Kawi.


faythef profile image

faythef 4 years ago from USA

Great story...I do hope that you and your cousin are still good friends.


KawikaChann profile image

KawikaChann 4 years ago from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place Author

Lol, thanks North Wind, the call Samoans the happy people - my cousin sure displayed that that day. Thanks for your kind comments. Peace. Kawi


North Wind profile image

North Wind 4 years ago from The World (for now)

This is one of the most interesting articles I have come across on HP. It is well -written and very funny as well. I have never heard of the coconut crab but I was able to picture your adventure perfectly and felt as though I was actually there in Samoa witnessing it. Voted up and everything else.

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