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Incredibly rare sight of crab shedding its shell caught on camera

Niamh Shackleton

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| Last updated 

Incredibly rare sight of crab shedding its shell caught on camera

Featured Image Credit: ViralHog

A crab has been documented shedding its shell in an extremely rare video.

I'm not sure about you, but I was today year's old when I learnt that crabs shed their shells like snakes do their skins.

And watching the process of it happening can only really be described as surreal.

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You can see it here:

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The amazing moment where you see the crab push itself out of its outer shell - also known as it's exoskeleton - was filmed in Galloway, New Jersey, USA.

In the process of shedding its outer shell, the crab apparently removes its legs, eye stalks, antennae, its mouth parts and its gills - you know, most of the vital things a crustacean needs.

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And that's not all.

It also leaves in its old shell its oesophagus, its stomach lining, and the last half inch of its intestine.

But why would a crab put itself through such a gruelling process?

The amazing moment was caught on camera. Credits: ViralHog
The amazing moment was caught on camera. Credits: ViralHog
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One reason is because its exoskeleton doesn't grow with the crab, so they have to get rid of it eventually by 'molting' in the same way we as humans eventually outgrow our clothes.

After molting, a crab's new shell is very soft at first but hardens within a few days. And it takes about a month for it to become 'very hard', the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explains.

The NOAA's website adds: "Besides allowing the crab to grow, molting helps to get rid of parasites, barnacles, and other animals growing on the shell.

"It also helps to get rid of shells damaged by bacteria that degrade the chitin in the exoskeleton."

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Amazingly, crabs which may have lost a leg for whatever reason can also regenerate the limb over time - something which can occur during the molting process.

Prior to getting rid of its old shell, they're also said to 'reabsorb some of the calcium carbonate from the old exoskeleton'.

Larger crabs only shed around once a year. Credits: John M. Chase/Getty
Larger crabs only shed around once a year. Credits: John M. Chase/Getty

It then produces and discharges enzymes to separate the old shell from the underlying skin.

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Understandably, molting is said to be a very painful process for crabs so larger ones may only do it around once a year.

As well as it being a rare occurrence, another thing that makes the video so surreal is that crabs typically burrow in the sand to find a safe space to begin the molting process - but this crab chose not do so.

Instead, the crustacean does it on the surface of what looks to be a boat, giving the person filming a rather amazing and unique show.

Topics: News, Animals

Niamh Shackleton
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