PHUKET: Following considerable excitement in Thai national newspapers about the discovery in Bangkok of a robber crab, or coconut crab – thought to be extinct in Thailand – the Phuket Marine Biological Center has revealed that it has a colony of 20 or so of the giant land-based crustaceons. The crabs are not on view to the public because the center worries that they may be disturbed by large numbers of visitors. Kongkiat Kittiwattanawong, marine biologist at the center, said that although some can be found in the wild in the Similan Islands, robber crabs are not true natives of Thailand. They are found mostly in the Seychelles, the Solomon Islands, Micronesia and Fiji. The big crustaceons, which are related to hermit crabs, spend only the first two months of their lives in the water. Thereafter, they live on land, eating just about anything they can lay their claws on. They are partial to coconuts, climbing trees and snipping them off, letting them drop in order to crack them, and then descending to break them open with their powerful claws. Khun Kongkiat explained that the crabs live as long as 50 years, by which time they can measure 75 centimeters from claw-tip to claw-tip. Females can lay as many as 90,000 eggs at a time. The crabs burrow into the sand during the day and come out to feed at night.
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