The incredible Hulk: Hunt is on for a new shell for hefty hermit crab

The Incredible Hulk: Race is on to create a ‘forever home’ for a hefty hermit crab called ‘Hulk’ that keeps outgrowing his shell

  • Hulk the Hermit crab has yet to find his ideal shell as he grows rapidly 
  • The gregarious crustacean either abandons his shells or vandalises them  
  • He got his name after repeated shells were broken or chipped by the crab  

A campaign has been launched to find a permanent home for a gregarious young hermit crab that keeps breaking his shell.  

The temperamental White-Spotted Hermit Crab – called Hulk – has been given several shells by his carers but has either ditched or smashed them.

His destructive tendencies led marine biologists to name him after the bulging green hero from the Marvel universe, who also has a track record of violent outbursts.

He has recently been making do with a shell that does not quite meet his requirements. 

Now the National Marine Aquarium (NMA) has recruited the help of students from Plymouth College of Art to create a functional ‘forever home’ for Hulk.  

A temperamental White-Spotted Hermit Crab – called Hulk (pictured) – has been given several shells by his carers but has either ditched or smashed them

WHAT ARE HERMIT CRABS?

Hermit crabs are crustaceans that are between 0.5 to 16 inches in length depending on the species.

They are usually reddish, orange or brown in colour and have ten legs and two large claws.

They hide in a shell in order to hide their soft twisted abdomen from predators.

The species is found all over the world and this plucky crustacean was spotted on the Thai island of Koh Lanta.

They are generally found in sandy or muddy marine waters.

Charlie Preston, senior biologist at the NMA in Plymouth, said: ‘Hulk is a White-Spotted Hermit Crab and like all crustaceans, in the early stages of life, this type of crab moults frequently as it grows at a faster rate. 

‘As they get older, the rate at which they moult reduces to around once every 10-12 months. 

‘When they moult, they increase in size by quite a bit, so usually they will try and source a new shell when or shortly after it happens – however, this may depend on availability of new shells that meet their required criteria. 

‘Hulk outgrows his shells at a faster rate than we can source him new ones but is also quite a vandal and has been known to chip or break them – hence his name.’ 

Ms Preston added: ‘We must also make sure the lid on his tank is secure and weighted down, as he’s a bit of an escape artist and is very strong.’ 

Product design and innovation, and 3D design crafts students from Plymouth College of Art will try and make a shell Hulk will be proud of. 

They will employ techniques such as resin modelling, glass-blowing and 3D printing to create a comfortable, functional and aesthetically pleasing shell.

Three finalists’ designs will be selected by the NMA’s husbandry team and developed. The winner will then become Hulk’s new home. 

The White-Spotted Hermit Crab is usually found in the Indo-Pacific, which reaches from East Africa to Hawaii, and lives in shallow water on coral or rock reefs. 

Hulk, otherwise known as the Giant-Spotted Hermit Crab, Dardanus Megistos, has been happily living at the NMA – run by conservation charity the Ocean Conservation Trust – for six years. 

Ms Preston, who oversees his daily care, explained: ‘I believe Hulk himself has moulted around eight to nine times since he has been with us. 

‘We have kept most of his moults, and the size difference between them is astonishing. 

‘His initial size was approximately one to two inches across, while the latest moult measures about eight to nine inches across. 

‘This type of crab gets quite large and can grow up to approximately 25cm [10 inches] in width – however, 10-12cm [4-4.75 inches] is the more frequently encountered size.’ 

White-Spotted Hermit Crabs usually inhabit old gastropod shells, favouring the discarded shells of the Triton Trumpet.

However it has proved impossible to source one for Hulk.  

Students will employ techniques such as including resin modelling, glass-blowing (pictured) and 3D printing to create a comfortable, functional and aesthetically pleasing shell. The winner will then become Hulk’s new home

Students at Plymouth College of Art are working to create a bespoke shell for Hulk in the hope he finally accepts a permanent shell after abandoning and breaking many others 

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