I tell myself all the time, Let them be crabs, Mary. Let them be crabs.
October 21, 2019 4:56 AM   Subscribe

Funny story! Author, why did you choose crab as the main hero?
posted by andyvorkinson at 5:24 AM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

I really don't want to shit on what this woman is doing, and I am not against pets (I have cats). However:
The fate of individual pet crabs is grim: these wild creatures, often impulse purchases made by families on beach vacations, typically live six months to two years in captivity. If left in their natural environment, they can live for more than four decades.
An animal that can live 40 years in the wild that is routinely dying in captivity at 6 months to 2 years old seems like an incredibly poor candidate for being kept as a pet. Even at her $50 (an attempt, as she says, to get them viewed as non-disposable), I seriously question whether there's any ethical way to keep these animals or to breed them for others to keep.
posted by tocts at 5:37 AM on October 21, 2019 [23 favorites]

I wonder if she can get tiny shells from craft suppliers.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:40 AM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

This'll do in a pinch.
posted by zaixfeep at 6:48 AM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

An animal that can live 40 years in the wild that is routinely dying in captivity at 6 months to 2 years old seems like an incredibly poor candidate for being kept as a pet.

Well clearly they should be viewed as exotic pets, though honestly most of the pets considered "starter" pets and "easy to take care of" aren't actually at all. They just don't generate enough emotional connection with the owner that anyone is all that sad when they die fairly quickly. Talk to any real enthusiast of guinea pigs. lizards, rats, fish, birds and they'll tell you that what pet stores sell as adequate habitat for these creatures is criminal. In the wild, goldfish life expectancy is 25 years.

My nephew won some goldfish at a county fair when he was visiting my inlaws one summer and no one thought through the fact that to return home he had to fly, which he clearly was not gonna do with a couple of live goldfish. Everyone was like, "Flush 'em I guess" but me and my husband, the family bleeding hearts, snatched them away and kept them as pets. We gave them a proper-sized tank with good filtration and, like, normal fish care (we are not fish experts but just wanted to do right by them) and they lived for years and years (not 25 alas, but a good deal longer than your average county fair goldfish). Meanwhile, a friend of ours with young kids decided to do the "starter pet" thing and we went over to his house one day to find a single goldfish in a fishbowl with some gravel on the bottom and nothing else. We told him that what he's going to get in short order is a starter lesson on death for his kids. He poo-pooed us. That thing lived a couple months and croaked.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:49 AM on October 21, 2019 [17 favorites]

I had hermit crabs for a while, rescued from my sister in law who bought them at a beach store as a throwaway pet for her kids. These things are definitely not starter pets. They require precise conditions to survive, conditions that are difficult to duplicate in captivity. The entire small pet trade is an utter travesty. No creature is throwaway but that's how they're treated. And I agree that while she clearly cares about the crabs (and actually, this article made me briefly nostalgic for my hermit crabs, who I gave to a crab rescue), keeping these critters as pets is just not really something to be encouraging, no matter how well-intentioned.
posted by whistle pig at 7:27 AM on October 21, 2019 [7 favorites]

Thanks for this, I’m happy to hear that someone cares about the wee critters.

In 1969 I smuggled some hermit crabs home after a visit to Puerto Rico. It was crazy. I was just a kid. My father helped by hiding a few of the bigger specimens on his person. As we waited to clear customs at the airport, a big one found its way up to the shoulder of my father’s jacket where its feelers tickled his ear. In one smooth movement he scooped the escapee into a handkerchief which he gently tucked into his pocket. That particular crab made it home and lived another three years.

Back home, I distributed crabs to my friends, ensuring a lifetime of resentment from their parents. Couple of years ago when I was voting (four decades later), the woman who checked me in gave me a withering look. “You gave my daughter a crab,” she intoned. “That thing got under something and died. We smelled it for years.”
posted by kinnakeet at 8:49 AM on October 21, 2019 [24 favorites]

Excited to read this. Thank you for posting.

I've been eyeing Mary Akers' blog awaiting a post newer than August.
posted by readinghippo at 9:41 AM on October 21, 2019

One hopes she didn’t come home to find the crabs had sculpted her face out of sand in their living area.
posted by mwhybark at 10:22 AM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Mary Akers' post from a few days ago, 2019 Breeding on Hermit Crab Association forum. 114 babies!
posted by readinghippo at 2:21 PM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

I had land hermit crabs as a kid, and I loved loved loved them. Did my very best to give them an ideal habitat. Unfortunately we moved to a house where the landlord didn't bother to tell us that the water was full of bacteria and other things and not actually drinkable until it had been allowed to run, and then boiled. My crabs died in short order after that move and I'm pretty sure it was the water. I still miss them.

I am sad to hear they're so difficult to keep for their full life span, I had always thought I would get some more when I had space, but I guess not. Also I agree that the way people keep goldfish is atrocious, we had a massive tank for ours and it lived until it turned silver from old age. It used to dance for food. Goldfish in tiny tanks with no filter make me angry. Some people shouldn't have any pets.

We did used to play a prank on guests where we would put a display of shells in the middle of the dining room table along with a single hermit crab, so they would freak out when it started to move.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:33 AM on October 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yay self-taught scientist made good!

Her independent findings on the breeding conditions of hermit crabs will have a positive impact on our understanding of these animals and similar. That’s worth celebrating.
posted by EinAtlanta at 12:01 AM on October 23, 2019

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