Coconut Crab sounds like a delicious dish you might order at an Asian restaurant, not a bloodthirsty killer.
But a video taken by Dartmouth College biologist Mark Laidre may forever change whatever opinion you had previously of the creature.
The Coconut Crab is the largest terrestrial invertebrate in the world, with a leg span exceeding 3 feet and a weight of nearly 8 pounds in some cases. The crabs can climb trees and have claws nearly as strong as a lion’s jaws. Some have theorized that the giant crabs killed Amelia Earhart and took her bones underground.
One thing is for sure: you may not want to see one on a dark night, based on Laidre’s video, which shows a Coconut Crab killing a bird ― namely, an adult red-footed booby.
Laidre took the video in early 2016 when he spent two months at the Chagos Archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean observing the crabs in their native habitat.
The video, seen below, was released last month as part of a research paper for the journal Frontiers In Ecology And The Environment.
In the paper, Laidre detailed the shocking encounter:
“The booby had been sleeping on a low-lying branch, less than a meter up the tree. The crab slowly climbed up and grabbed the booby’s wing with its claw, breaking the bone and causing the booby to fall to the ground, where it was unable to fly.
“The crab then approached the bird, grabbing and breaking its other wing. The booby struggled and pecked at the crab, but the crab retained its grip with both claws, kicking at the bird with its ambulatory legs.”
Laidre said within 20 minutes, five more coconut crabs showed, possibly smelling the blood.
The attacking crab ”responded by dragging the booby several meters away, and then released its grip.”
“As the booby lay paralyzed, the crabs fought, eventually tearing the bird apart over several hours, carrying it away, and consuming it.”
Although the idea of being torn apart by giant crabs seems the stuff of monster movies, humans aren’t really at risk of attack. Coconut crabs can’t breathe underwater so they are stuck on the island on which they’re born, according to National Geographic.