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Custom designed glassware

Crab House

Hermit CrabA hermit crab at the NZMSC and Aquarium in Portobello has taken up residence in a glass shell. Just one week after the artificial shell was placed in the tank a hermit crab silently checked it out, sliding his soft abdomen in to check its delicate curves for fit. He has made it home ever since.

Staff at the aquarium were intrigued how hermit crabs make their homes in discarded snail shells, it was often asked “How do they manage to squeeze their entire body into such a small space?” or “Wouldn't it be cool to see inside?”

Enlisting the expertise of University of Otago scientific glassblower Anne Ryan, the aquarium wanted to replicate a snail shell that would be suitable home for a hermit crab. With the hermit crab taking up residence, it is now clearly visible how they twist their abdomen around the central column of the shell and the well-adapted tip of the abdomen clasps strongly to hold it in place.

Hermit Crab 2Centre Manager, Tessa Mills said “The staff are so excited. This is going to provide us with new teaching opportunities and will be really fantastic for the public to come and view.” More glass shells have been requested, so soon there may be a whole cast of hermit crabs living in glass shells at Portobello.

Photographs taken by Tomas Bird (Marine Interpreter at the NZ Marine Studies Centre)

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