Valuable Life Lessons from Xcalak’s Hermit Crabs

Hermit crabs might not seem like they have much wisdom to impart. Known for wearing other animals’ shells, hermit crabs are a part of everyday life in Xcalak, Mexico.

Crawling on the sand, hiding in the shade, or climbing palm trees – hermit crabs aren’t exactly super-intellectually evolved.

What can humans learn about life from these small creatures? Turns out, plenty.

Short on time? Watch the video!

Life is better (and longer) with friends

They’re called “hermit” crabs, implying that they appreciate solitude. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Hermit crabs live in colonies and have a surprisingly involved social scene. A hermit crab typically has hundreds of friends with whom it eats, sleeps, and generally moves around. In a busy colony, a hermit crab can live up to 30 years. Alone, it only lives a few months and then dies (of loneliness presumably).

What can we learn from this? With friends, you’ll not only have more fun, you’ll live longer.

Fight for what’s important

A hermit crab’s shell is its most important (and only) possession. It uses the shell for hiding, keeping moisture, and for protection from predators. And once it’s in there, boy does it fight to stay there.

Trying to separate a hermit crab from its shell is a horrible thing to do – the little guy will not give it up easily and hangs on so tight that it would rather get torn in half than let go of its valuable shell.

Hermit crabs know what’s important, and they fight to keep it. When something is important to us, we should do the same.

Being small doesn’t mean you can’t do big things

Even at their largest, Xcalak hermit crabs aren’t much bigger than your palm, but that doesn’t stop them from climbing to great heights (literally).

In Xcalak, you might find a hermit crab hiding in the branches of a tall palm tree. How did such a small creature manage to climb so high?

Although small in statute, a hermit crab isn’t intimidated by large distances or steep climbs. A hermit crab’s fierce determination to achieving lofty goals is something we can all aspire to.

Speak softly and carry a big stick (or claw)

Some hermit crabs are more aggressive than others, but in general they’re peaceful creatures. More likely to hide in their shell than to fight.

But when they do fight, they’re equipped with some impressive hardware (impressive for a crab, anyway). Hermit crabs have one claw that’s herculean compared to the other – it uses this oversize appendage/weapon to cover the entrance to its shell when it hides. And to fight when it needs to.

Hermit crabs are docile until they’re pushed past their limit. And when it’s time to fight, they’re ready. Avoiding a fight is best for humans too – but just the same, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for one.

Don’t shy away from competition

As it grows, a hermit crab needs to find a new, bigger shell. Unfortunately, so does every other crab in the colony. It’s inevitable that hermit crabs will compete for shells.

If a hermit crab backs down from competition, it’ll be stuck with a shell that’s too small. A shell that’s too small makes a crab vulnerable to predators (and it’s probably uncomfortable too).

A hermit crab might not like competing but it has to, to survive. Don’t back down when you compete for something important – that’s what we can learn from these brave hermit crabs.

Embrace the extraordinary

Changing shells is a part of life for a hermit crab. But a hermit crab doesn’t always have to use the usual mollusk or snail shell to make its home. Hermit crabs are good at thinking “outside the shell”.

From bottle caps to tennis balls, hermit crabs make the most of what they can find especially when shells are scarce. They do what’s necessary to acquire a new home even if this new home isn’t anything like the last one.

Just because you can’t get what you want, doesn’t mean all is lost. A hermit crab’s ability to embrace change is a trait that humans can put to good use.

Hermit crabs aren’t just wise, they’re fun to play with too! See how you can make your own Hermit Crab Race in Xcalak.