Scarlet Hermit Crab from the Cayman Islands

Scarlet Hermit Crab (Paguristes cadenati), Cayman Islands
Scarlet Hermit Crab (Paguristes cadenati), Cayman Islands
by B. N. Sullivan

Many small crustaceans look quite similar to one another, but it's hard to misidentify this little hermit crab.  A denizen of reefs in the Caribbean Sea, the brilliant coloring of the Scarlet Hermit Crab (Paguristes cadenati) sets it apart from other hermit crab species of that region.

These little crabs (about an inch long) inhabit old gastropod shells, and for some unknown reason, the shells they choose as their portable houses usually are pretty cruddy looking.  The one in the photo on this page is covered with a layer of coralline algae so thick that it almost looked like a stone, rather than a seashell.

Like many hermit crab species, these little guys are difficult to find during daylight hours.  At dusk they emerge from their hiding places in the reef and go about foraging for their food.  We spotted this individual during a night dive at Little Cayman island.

Most often, divers see only the crab's red legs and pale eyestalks poking out of the aperture of the shell in which they live.  This individual was cruising along across some coral, so we got to see a bit of the pretty speckled markings on its back, too.

The Scarlet Hermit Crab is a member of the Diogenidae family.  Comprised of more than 400 known species, the Diogenidae are the second-largest family of marine hermit crabs.

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