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Hermit Crabs Are Using Plastic as Homes

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Hermit crabs, which typically live inside sea shells or old snail shells due to their soft bodies, are increasingly turning to rubbish for refuge, according to a recent study by Polish scientists.

The study found that these tiny crustaceans are now using plastic caps, metal, and glass trash as homes.

Researchers examined hundreds of images of hermit crabs on social media and found 386 instances of the crabs living inside artificial shells. Of these, 85 percent were using plastic caps, while the rest chose metal or glass trash.

The study was published in the journal Science of the Total Environment on February 25, 2024.

While it did not explore the potential harm of artificial shells to hermit crabs, a 2019 study found that over half a million hermit crabs on a remote Indian Ocean island die each year after getting trapped inside plastic items like bottles.

Researchers are unsure why hermit crabs are choosing artificial shells, but they have several theories. Some believe the crabs are struggling to find natural shells and are using whatever they can find. Others think plastic may be more attractive because it is lighter and easier to carry. It may also provide better camouflage in an environment filled with trash.

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