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Watch Molting Spider Crab Crawls Out of Own Shell

first_img Watch: Dolphin Leaps Feet Away From Unsuspecting SurferWatch: Deep-Sea Octopus ‘Billows Like a Circus Tent’ Stay on target You might never look at a crab shell the same way again.SeaWorld San Diego on Thursday shared fascinating time-lapse footage of a Japanese spider crab, which has the biggest leg span of any arthropod, molting — a process in which the crab sheds its entire shell and crawls out of its own body.center_img “It’s a perfectly natural occurrence for a spider crab,” said Mike Price, curator at the aquarium. “But for us as marine scientists to be able to witness Mother Nature in action in such an impressive way, that’s a great day at SeaWorld!”Crabs, and other crustaceans, cannot grow in a linear fashion like most animals. Because they have a hard outer shell (the exoskeleton) that does not grow, they must shed their shells, a process called molting, according to the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) at NOAA.Prior to molting, a crab reabsorbs some of the calcium carbonate from the old exoskeleton, then secretes enzymes to separate the old shell from the underlying skin, the AFSC said. Then, the epidermis secretes a new, soft, paper-like shell beneath the old one. This process can take several weeks.A day before molting, the crab starts to absorb seawater, and begins to swell up like a balloon, helping to expand the old shell and causing it to come apart at a special seam that runs around the body.The carapace, the hard upper shell, then opens up like a lid. The crab extracts itself from its old shell by pushing and compressing all of its appendages repeatedly. First it backs out, then pulls out its hind legs, then its front legs, and finally comes completely out of the old shell. This process takes about 15 minutes.Many crabs in a population molt at the same time of year, and their old shells could wash up on the beach. The “empty” crabs shells sometimes found on beaches are actually cast-off exoskeletons.More on Geek.com:Researchers Turn Lobster Shells Into Biodegradable PlasticSome Fish Can ‘Recognize Themselves’ in a Mirror, Study FindsSix New Species of ‘Superhero’ Catfish Discovered in the Amazonlast_img

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