Giant coconut crab seen hunting birds

The deadly crab was filmed as it attacked a sea bird breaking its wings to incapacitate it on the remote Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean

A video of a large land-dwelling crab known as a coconut or robber crab hunting and killing a seabird has gone viral.

The creepy-crawly here is a coconut crab, so named because their size and remarkable pinching force allows them to slice open tasty coconuts and feast on them. They live underground and climb trees.

The crab apparently attacked the sleeping bird, a red-footed booby, while it was resting on a branch.

The incident was witnessed and captured by a researcher, Mark Laidre of Dartmouth College, while he was studying the giant crabs in the remote Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, New Scientist reported. It then proceeds to bust up the still-alive bird, snapping its wings with its powerful claws and rendering it helpless.

The killer crustacean followed the injured, struggling bird and broke its other wing as the bird lunged about desperately and squawked in terror.

Within 20 minutes, five more coconut crabs arrived on the scene, "likely cueing in on the blood with their neurologically acute olfactory sense", Laidre wrote.

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'It was pretty gruesome, ' Mr Laidre said. During one observation session, he saw one coconut crab about to kill a red-footed booby, which was a rare sighting. "As the booby lay paralyzed, the crabs fought, eventually tearing the bird apart over several hours, carrying it away, and consuming it".

According to the original report, the crab didn't just attack and kill the bird, but it also fed on it. Thankfully they're relatively slow moving, so you probably won't suffer the same fate as this unfortunate bird, but whatever you do, don't fall asleep next to one.

It is the first time these enormous creatures have been seen actively hunting large, back-boned animals, and suggests they might dominate their island ecosystems.

The crabs feed on coconuts and fleshy fruits but like other crabs they are known to scavenge off corpses.

Coconut crabs are the largest land invertebrates - their legs can span up to a meter across, and they weigh as much as nine pounds.

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