Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Christmas Island: Red Crab Migration


Red Crab
Christmas Island National Park
Photo: Max Orchard  

Red crab Migration

Christmas Island National Park  
Photo: Max Orchard

"At the beginning of the wet season (usually October/November), most adult red crabs suddenly begin a spectacular migration from the forest to the coast, to breed and release eggs into the sea. Breeding is usually synchronized island wide. The rains provide moist overcast conditions for crabs to make their long and difficult journey to the sea. The timing of the migration breeding sequence is also linked to the phases of the moon, so that eggs may be released by the female red crabs into the sea precisely at the turn of the high tide during the last quarter of the moon.

"It is thought that this occurs at this time because there is the least difference between high and low tides. The sea level at the base of the cliffs and on the beaches, where the females release their eggs, at this time varies the least for a longer period, and it is therefore safer for the females approaching the water's edge to release their eggs. Sometimes there are earlier and later migrations of smaller numbers of crabs but all migrations retain this same lunar rhythm.

"The main migration commences on the plateau and can last up to 18 days. Masses of crabs gather into broad columns as they move toward the coast, climbing down high inland cliff faces, and over or around all obstacles in their way, following routes used year after year for both downward and return migrations. Movement peaks in the early morning and late afternoons when it is cooler and there is more shade. If caught in open areas, in unshaded heat, the crabs soon lose body water and die."  

You can read more about it here:  Christmas Island National Park

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