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A treasure trove of hermit crabs hiding in plain sight

Parking fees at Ferry Beach Scarborough
Parking fees at Ferry Beach ScarboroughJane Beecher Russo

A recent visit to Ferry Beach in Scarborough off the Black Point Road, rewarded me with something this native Mainer has never seen. It was low tide at the mouth of the Scarborough River. The water had a gentle repetitive ripple at the shoreline in the protected cove at the end of the beach.

All in a crabs daily life.
All in a crabs daily life.Jane Beecher Russo

My curiosity was in full-on explorer mode as I entered the beach by way of the boat launch area. I noticed two children wading in waist deep water, obviously searching for something under the surface. As I walked toward the water's edge, one gave a shout, "I got one!"

They both began working their way to shore, toward a small tidal pool that had been left behind after the tide receded. Several children were gathered around the pocket of water, as the waders arrived with the new catch. Unable to casually walk by the commotion, I made a beeline for the group and the boy with his newly found treasure. He held out a nice small palm sized crab, it's pincers working feverishly.

"Wow," I said, not expecting a crab. I thought maybe a clam or mussel, but not a crab. The children were excited to show me their stash. It turned out that there were several crabs they'd collected and moved to the tidal pool. As I watched, other creatures were moving under the water's surface as well. Not believing what I was seeing, I asked, and was informed that they were in fact baby hermit crabs. There were dozens of them in sizes as small as pumpkin seeds all the way up to quarter size, all of them carrying their trademark shell-houses on their backs.

Again, I was not believing what was very obviously right in front of my eyes. In all of my lifetime's worth of hours that I've spent along Maine's oceanfront, I've never seen hermit crabs. It was incredible. The children brought me to the waters edge, and there were thousands more, all scurrying around doing whatever it is that hermit crabs do in the course of their day. I think I was just as excited as the children. Those hermit crabs brought back so many memories of tidal pool discoveries from my childhood and of teaching my own children about the ecosystem of the tides.

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