Are Coconut Crabs Dangerous? | 17 Mind Numbing Facts |

Coconut crabs are the largest land-living arthropods on earth. They have a leg span of over 3 feet and weigh up to 10 pounds. So are coconut crabs dangerous? let’s find out in this article

The coconut crabs are part of the decapod family which also includes prawns, lobsters, and crayfish.

Coconut crab (Birgus latro) is related to the terrestrial hermit crab, but unlike them, these enormous crabs live exclusively on land and can not survive in the water.

Now imagine when a coconut-sized crab comes near you and tries to pinch you. Terrifying. Right? But, in reality, they don’t attack humans as we expect them to be.

This interesting article is about coconut crabs, their strength, temperament, whether or not they pose a danger to humans, and more.

are coconut crab dangerous

Are coconut crabs dangerous?

Coconut crab or robber crab can be dangerous due to its ability to pinch.

The coconut crab is usually shy and not willing to attack humans. However, they can be very ruthless if provoked or if they feel that their habitat is in danger.

According to National Geographic, adult coconut crabs have been known to break through windows by pinching them with their powerful pinchers, climb up electrical poles, and even dismember sleeping chickens.

Also, coconut crabs cut holes in coconut to find food and that needs a lot of strength.

However, despite their ruthless behavior, they are still not known to attack humans as they usually feed on nuts and fruits found in trees.

They don’t like fish or meat as other crabs do. But they do feed on meat and any other organic matter.

According to Wikipedia, some divers have used knives as a defense against these creatures, but there are no records of any human death caused by them.

A local legend on some pacific islands claims that adult coconut crabs once ate some villagers, but there are no official records to prove the truth of this legend.

Are coconut crabs friendly?

Coconut crabs are not friendly with each other and prefer solitary. They are pretty anti-social creatures that do not like to go near any other animal.

Coconut crabs are not at all friendly towards each other; their fights can lead to the death of one or more of them.

They sometimes fight over food and females as well. If two coconut crabs interact somehow, it will be either mating or eating each other (yes, they practice cannibalism).

Although these creatures are brutal to their own species, they are afraid of humans in nature.

They naturally keep their distance from humans to be safe until they feel threatened or provoked.

are coconut crab dangerous

Why are coconut crabs so scary?

Coconut crabs have powerful pincers that can rival those of the fiercest predators, such as tigers, lions, and bears.

Their pinchers can break coconuts that are about 2-3 inches in diameter easily. And if they pinch someone, it can be pretty painful or even cause injuries.

Their claws might not be as sharp as the teeth of a tiger, but they can still cause a lot of damage.

In spite of that, the size of these creatures easily scares us off because, you know, they are the largest crabs living on earth.

But please don’t kill them just because you are afraid of them. They are an essential part of our natural ecosystem and need to be conserved.

Do coconut crabs attack humans?

Coconut crabs usually do not attack humans. They are not carnivorous, but sometimes they will eat sea turtle eggs.

They primarily feed on fruits that fall from trees onto the beach. 

However, they may attack humans if they feel threatened or provoked. And as we said before, they can be dangerous because they have one of the most powerful pincers in the world.

Therefore, your best bet is just to stay away from them when you see them near you.

Are coconut crabs deadly?

Coconut crabs can be deadly if a group of coconut crabs surrounds you, as it takes only minutes for these crabs to break human bones and consume a corpse because of their immense strength.

One such terrifying report is the disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

The renowned pilot, adventurer, and writer suddenly disappeared near Howland Island in the South Pacific in 1937, along with her navigator Fred Noonan.

The area is known to be the residence of coconut crabs, and scientists believe that Amelia was, in fact, was mutilated and consumed by coconut crabs.

Can a coconut crab break your finger?

Absolutely. The large claws of coconut crabs can crack open hard coconuts and are strong enough to lift about 28kgs.

They also have an average grip strength of about 300 newtons, while 3000 newtons being the maximum recorded.

This strength makes them quite capable of breaking fingers – given that their claws are large enough (about 3 inches) and if they can get a good sight on your finger.

However, there is no documented record of them actually breaking fingers or causing much damage to humans.

That said, the coconut crab is one of the largest crabs known, and hence it’s an animal you should not touch.

If you stick your finger in its way, there’s a good chance you might lose it. Or at least get badly injured by its large pincers.

Can coconut crabs break bones?

Of course. According to research done by Shin-ichiro Oka at the Okinawa Churashima Foundation, Japan, large-sized coconut crabs had about 1800 newtons grip strength, and the biggest crab had about 3000 newtons grip strength.

This colossal strength of these animals can break even bones if caught. That is why these creatures easily catch birds resting in the treetops and eat them.

One of the most exciting facts about these creatures is that once they get hold of something, it is impossible to let go unless it is dead or forced to.

But, fortunately, these creatures often live in solitary and are afraid of humans. So, there is no danger from coconut crabs if you don’t go near them.

Do coconut crabs bite humans?

No, they don’t. However, coconut crabs will pinch your fingers if you put them too close to the crab. 

These creatures can give a nasty pinch, and it hurts like hell.

On the other hand, there is not much chance of them attacking you, and they generally leave humans alone if we stay out of their way.

However, getting close to these crabs isn’t advisable since they might turn aggressive and attack without any notice.

are coconut crab dangerous

Can coconut crabs smell blood?

The coconut crab is one of the animals that smell blood. Their body is evolved to smell things because they are nocturnal species.

Coconut crabs usually forage in the nighttime. So, to find food without seeing them, they have to sniff it out.

Therefore, they have a strong and highly efficient sense of smell to help them find their prey.

Their chemoreceptors are efficient enough to smell blood. In fact, their brain has devoted a large portion of it to detect odors.

Interestingly, they rob things from humans residences because of their smelling power.

This is why they are also known as robber crabs. At night, they explore human belongings, snatch silverware and other objects and carry them to their burrows.

Experts believe that their incredible sense of smell causes this thievery.

Can a coconut crab kill a human?

While a single coconut crab may not be able to kill a human, if a group of coconut crabs gathered around, they indeed can kill a human.

Their incredibly powerful pincers can pierce through the flesh of humans and break their bones.

So, if a group of them starts to attack you as their prey, you may have to die unless you get help from someone else.

But, luckily, these creatures do not socialize with other coconut crabs and prefer to stay alone.

They often live alone in crevices of burrows and often come out at night when we are not around.

And also, they are very slow walkers, so you have time to get away if caught. If cornered, a coconut crab will fight back ferociously with its claws.

It would be challenging for an unarmed person to kill one in a fight and dangerous to try.

Do they bite, and do they pinch hard?

Coconut crabs can break open coconuts with ease and dismember chickens using their pincers. A single claw is strong enough to break a thick branch or crack open a rock.

These creatures have very strong pincers and can easily break open a bottle or glass jar.

They also climb trees to look for coconuts with the husks that have dropped on the ground, then crack them open on fallen logs or rocks. 

So, yes, they bite, and they pinch hard. Coconut crabs would probably just rip your skin off if it got a grip on you, then start to crack open your bones for food. 

How do coconut crabs kill their prey?

When hunting live prey such as rodents, they grab the prey with one claw and then use their other claw to break open the skull and shred the prey.

As per rare footage captured by some researchers in Dartmouth College, once a crab captures their prey, the other coconut crabs around it come to the prey following the smell, and crabs start to fight over the prey.

This will result in shredding the prey into pieces, and each crab gets a piece for itself.

Related questions

What is the biggest coconut crab ever found?

The biggest coconut crab ever found weighed 4.1kg and was about 1m long from tip to tip of the leg.

Are coconut crabs endangered species?

Coconut crabs come from a group of species, and the IUCN reports say they are vulnerable.

In 1981, it was listed in the IUCN Red List as a vulnerable species. In 1996, it was changed to ‘data deficient” because of lack of biological data.

Again, in 2018, they have listed these species back to “vulnerable” species. This is due to hunting, decreased habitat, and changing sea levels due to global warming (This organism lives in coastal areas).

Can you eat coconut crabs?

Yes! you can eat coconut crabs. They are actually considered a delicacy in various islands, including  Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Vanuatu.

According to the people in these islands, coconut crabs’ flesh has a taste similar to lobsters and crabs.

Some others say that it tastes similar to peanut butter. Because of their delicious flavor, the large coconut crab population is becoming extinct in these countries due to intensive hunting.

Therefore, the governments in these countries have put some restrictions to preserve these species.

However, coconut crab poisoning may occur on rare occasions.

How long do coconut crabs live?

The coconut crab can live for up to 60 years. 

Where do coconut crabs live?

Coconut crabs are found throughout the Indian Ocean and central pacific ocean, especially on Christmas Island.

They also exist in Pacific Islands like Mangaia, where coconut palms grow abundantly and provide food for these interesting creatures that live up to their name: Coconut Crab (Kaju Kera).

You can find them on Seychelles or at Andaman islands as well!

Conclusion

Although coconut crabs are petrifying creatures due to their size, appearance, and enormous claws, they don’t necessarily pose a threat to humans.

They are generally solitary crab species that live in caves and crevices. They are nocturnal species that forage food at night.

So, the chances of encountering coconut crabs are usually low, and attacks are rare.

Coconut crabs are indeed dangerous animals because of their incredibly powerful claws but, they are generally afraid of humans.

So, usually, these creatures keep their distance from us. But, if somehow, they try to attack you, you can still save yourself because these creatures walk slowly, and you are indeed faster than them.

Credit to: Animalogic
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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.