Guardian Nature School Team Contact Blog Project Noah Facebook Project Noah Twitter

A global community of nature enthusiasts
photographing and learning about wildlife

Join Project Noah!
nature school apple icon

Project Noah Nature School visit nature school

Coconut crab

Birgus latro


The rare and threatened coconut crab is the largest terrestrial arthropod in the world, and has a body length of up to 40 cm, a weight of up to 4 kg and a leg span of almost 1 m. The front pair of legs has large claws, and next two pairs are walking legs allowing coconut crabs to climb vertical surfaces such as coconut trees. The coconut crab’s only predator is man, and this species has sadly been extirpated from some of its original habitats such as the mainlands of Australia and Madagascar.


Underground burrows and rock crevices, where it hides during the day. The coconut crab is purely terrestrial although it starts its life cycle as a larva in the ocean. Distribution: follows that of the coconut palm in the Indian and Central Pacific oceans. Spotted here on Chumbe Island (a coral rag island), getting into a compost tip.


In 1981, the coconut crab was listed on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable, but a lack of biological data resulted into it being listed as data deficient since 1996. Research into this species in the East African region remains limited, but fishermen have reported decreasing sightings. Chumbe Island, a coral nature reserve off Zanzibar developed since 1991, hopes to assist in this by comparing Chumbe's healthy population with neighbouring findings, so that the coconut crab may gain international attention to support its protection. My thanks to forest ranger Chaga at Chumbe for showing me where to find coconut crabs during day time. Find out more about Chumbe Island at

Species ID Suggestions

Sign in to suggest organism ID

45 Comments (1–25)

DanielePralong 6 years ago

Thanks Narjess! This one was on Chumbe Island too. It looks like we've been to quite a few identical places :-) Looking forward to the video.

Narjess 6 years ago

Beautiful, great shot! I was VERY lucky to see one last month in Zanzibar (Chumbe Island). Took a few shots and a short video, will be posting it soon :)

DanielePralong 8 years ago

Thanks EnvUnlimited and Jason!

Jason Alexander
Jason Alexander 8 years ago


KarenL 8 years ago

Fun fact! The coconut crab is the world’s largest terrestrial arthropod, with a leg span of over 3 feet and weighing up to 9 pounds. Although huge, it is dwarfed by its marine cousin the Japanese spider crab (Macrocheira kaempferi), which is the largest arthropod in the world. One specimen, caught in 1921, had a leg span of 12 feet and weighed 41 pounds!

DanielePralong 8 years ago

Thanks Carol and Reza!

Spectacular !

Carol Snow Milne
Carol Snow Milne 8 years ago

Awesome! Congratulations on being featured in the recent blog.

DanielePralong 8 years ago

Thank you J! This came as a surprise :-)

Jacob Gorneau
Jacob Gorneau 8 years ago

Congratulations, Daniele! Your enormous coconut crab was featured in my blog, "It's Life - unique abilities for unique organisms" today!

DanielePralong 9 years ago

Thanks for your comment Argybee. If you want to do more research/reading, the issue is discussed in:
M. M. Drew, S. Harzsch, M. Stensmyr, S. Erland & B. S. Hansson (2010). "A review of the biology and ecology of the Robber Crab, Birgus latro (Linnaeus, 1767) (Anomura: Coenobitidae)". Zoologischer Anzeiger 249 (1): 45–67.
Unfortunately you need a subscription to access it.. There are also a few bits in this book we can be accessed freely:
I actually have a picture of a juvenile still in its shell which I have to upload!

Mark Ridgway
Mark Ridgway 9 years ago

Magnificent Daniele. You have given me something to research tonight. I am particularly curious about your reference to mainland Australia being an original habitat for it. I always believed coconuts were only introduced here very recently... so I will read on.... thanks for this fabulous pic.

DanielePralong 9 years ago

Grazie Federico!

FedericoArmento 9 years ago


DanielePralong 9 years ago

Thanks Scott! I may have the largest arthropod but you have the most colourful one!

Scott Frazier
Scott Frazier 9 years ago

I guess I missed this. Congratulations Daniele!

DanielePralong 9 years ago

Thanks Satyen!

Wild Things
Wild Things 9 years ago

Lovely shot and a well deserved SOTD. Belated congrats Daniele.

DanielePralong 9 years ago

Thanks moralcoral and Nicholas4!

Nicholas4 9 years ago


moralcoral 9 years ago

Nice Catch!

DanielePralong 9 years ago

Thanks everyone for your comments! Apart from the fact that the animal is to be noted for its exceptional size as a terrestrial arthropod, it's also an opportunity to attract attention to a species which is currently lacking conservation data. Only one shot unfortunately: the animal was actually quite shy and retreated to its digs as I tried to get closer. I saw two more specimen at night time but the pics are not that good as I tried to avoid flash...

Atul 9 years ago

wow FABULOUS Spotting !!really cool
Congrats ,uve come back with a Bang!!!

aldrin 9 years ago


ShaumingLo 9 years ago

Congrats !

Spotted by


Spotted on Nov 19, 2011
Submitted on Dec 1, 2011


Noah Guardians
Noah Sponsors

Join the Project Noah Team Join Project Noah Team