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Importance of Arthropods

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I Thought I Liked Coconuts!
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I Thought I Liked Coconuts!

Insects may dominate in numbers, but when it comes to size crustaceans have them beat! Image courtesy of Gerald McCormack and Cook Islands Natural Heritage Trust

Who's Been Robbing The Garbage Can?

So your family has moved to a South Pacific Island. Welcome to sun, beautiful beaches, and warmth. You figure if this isn't paradise, then it's pretty darn close. Then someone asks you to take out the garbage, and you run into this!

You've just met one of your new neighbors Birgus latro, the largest terrestrial invertebrate on the planet!

Head Scratchers

Use the resources below to answer the following questions:

  1. What role in island ecosystems does Birgus latro play that is filled by mammals in other ecosystems? How does this help explain why they are less abundant on islands occupied by humans?
  2. How do these crabs maintain a wide distribution on islands when they drown so easily? Does this method of dispersal surprise you? Why or why not?
  3. How does the large size of Birgus latro help it guard against desiccation? What does this crab do behaviorally to minimize water loss?
  4. How long do we think Birgus latro lives? Do you find this surprising? Why or why not? How does this make this crab species more vulnerable to declines in population numbers?


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