Sunday, 18 November 2012

World's Largest Land Crabs Tracked With GPS

GPS technology has revolutionized the study of vertebrates like whales, birds and monkeys, allowing scientists to learn more about the animals' behaviors and sometimes-lengthy migrations. But nobody has used the technology to study arthropods, the world's most abundant animals, until now.

A study published this week in the journal PLoS ONE tracked 55 huge robber crabs on Christmas Island, south of Indonesia. The research found that these land crabs, which have a leg span of up to 3.3 feet (1 meter), typically stay within a small home range, living in crevices or between tree roots. Crabs are arthropods, an enormous group of animals defined by their exoskeletons; the group includes insects, arachnids and crustaceans.

The crabs can also travel more than two miles in search of water, food and mates, according to the new study. They mainly move between the island's inland rainforest and the coast. Males, previously thought to remain in the forest, were instead found to migrate toward the ocean as females do, possibly to drink the saltwater, which they prefer over freshwater.

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