Coconut crab pinches like a lion, eats like a dumpster diver | Science News


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Coconut crab pinches like a lion, eats like a dumpster diver

The giant crustaceans use their mighty claws to scavenge, hunt

7:00am, February 21, 2017
Birgus latro

SOUTHPAW STRENGTH  Birgus latro, the largest known crab species on land, scavenges with a mighty left claw strong enough to crack a coconut.

A big coconut crab snaps its outsized left claw as hard as a lion can bite, new measurements suggest. So what does a land crab the size of a small house cat do with all that pinch power?

For starters, it protests having its claw-force measured, says Shin-ichiro Oka of the Okinawa Churashima Foundation in Motobu, Japan. “The coconut crab is very shy,” he says. It doesn’t attack people unprovoked. But wrangling 29 wild Birgus latro crabs on Okinawa and getting them to grip a measurement probe inspired much snapping at scientists. Oka’s hand got pinched twice (no broken bones). “Although it was just a few minutes,” he says, “I felt eternal hell.”

The strongest claw grip the researchers measured squeezed with a force of about 1,765 newtons, worse than crushing a toe under the force of the full weight of a fridge. For comparison, a lion’s canines bite with 1,315 newtons and some of its molars can crunch with 2,024

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