The newest additions at the Two Oceans Aquarium have travelled 14 722km to get to us. Yesterday, we received a shipment of eight giant spider crabs from Japan. The crabs were kindly donated to us by Tokyo Sea Life Park and arrived via a direct flight on Singapore Airlines from Narita Airport, Tokyo, to Cape Town International Airport. 

The crabs arrive! Two Oceans Aquarium Operations Manager Tinus Beukes ensures the smooth running of the process
Two Oceans Aquarium Senior Aquarist and collections team member Paul van Nimwegen carries one of eight giant spider crabs into the Aquarium

“The crabs have travelled well and are in good physical condition,” says Two Oceans Aquarium Operations Manager Tinus Beukes. “The curatorial staff will monitor them carefully over the next three days while the crabs recover from their 36-hour confinement during shipment.”

The crabs were covered in moss to provide cushioning and comfort during the journey
The crabs' delicate, long legs are tied with twine to make sure they don't hurt themselves while travelling

Moving animals across the oceans, by air, is always a high-alert event, and one that we take very seriously. We know that our colleagues at Tokyo Sea Life are equally accountable, meticulous, and primarily concerned for the animals’ well being, so we feel very happy working with them in this way. Our relationship with them goes back more than 15 years. 

Spider crabs are the largest crustaceans in the world – males grow to approximately 1m in length with a 4m leg stretch. These crabs live at depths of approximately 400m and in temperatures between 11ºC and 14ºC

Because of their delicate long legs and fragile bodies, the giant spider crabs had to be very carefully packed in Japan. The crabs were padded in soft moss to cushion and protect their bodies and to make their journey as comfortable as possible, and their arms were carefully tied with twine to immobilise them and make sure that they didn’t hurt themselves while in transit. To keep the crabs cool for the duration of the trip, each container contained two bottles of frozen water.

It takes a team to provide the best care for these amazing animals

When the crabs landed in South Africa, Tinus and our collections team were ready and waiting at the airport to make sure that the crabs’ “paperwork” was in order and that there was absolutely no delay in getting them back here to the Aquarium and out of their packaging as soon and as smoothly as possible.

These crabs are generally caught as by-catch by deep-sea fishermen. 

Spider crabs are the largest crustaceans in the world – males grow to approximately 1m in length with a 4m leg stretch. These crabs live at depths of approximately 400m and in temperatures between 11ºC and 14ºC. Very little is known about the biology of giant spider crabs. It is virtually impossible to determine their age and we do not know when they reach sexual maturity. Their breeding habits are also a mystery to marine biologists.

Moult to grow

Did you know? As with all crustaceans, continual growth is impossible for giant spider crabs because of their hard exo-skeletons. To grow, the crabs have to shed this exo-skeleton by moulting. This is a complicated process which can take up to two days. Each moult is potentially life-threatening as the crab can become entrapped in its old shell. Even if the moult is successful, the sheer effort is sometimes so exhausting, that the crab dies soon afterwards.

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