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Program Great Migrations

  • Red crabs are native to Christmas Island, Australia. The central plateau of Christmas Island is dominated by strands of rain forest. The island has a tropical climate and experiences both a wet season (December through April) and a dry season (May through November).

    More than 120 million red crabs can be found on the rain forest floor of Christmas Island. Red crabs live alone in dirt burrows, or deep rock crevices. Crabs stay in the shade of their dwelling for most of the year. In October or November, when the wet season is about to return, crabs begin their migration to the shore. This timing coincides with the lunar cycle and the tides.

    This video documents the third and final stage of the red crab migration, after the eggs have been released into the ocean. The crab larvae remain in the water for about a month, growing through several larval stages. Few are able to survive the harsh ocean currents and marine predators. Those that survive shed their larval casing and begin the journey back into the rain forest, battling predators, such as the yellow crazy ant, along the way.

     

    1. How long do the red crab eggs drift in the ocean?

      Red crab eggs drift in the Indian Ocean for about three weeks. During this time, the eggs hatch and morph into larvae.

    2. What guides young red crabs on their migration route?

      Young red crabs are driven by instinct to trace the path of their ancestors.

    3. What hazards do red crabs face at sea? What hazards do they face on land?

      At sea, red crabs risk being swept away by the currents or eaten by predators. On land, red crabs must survive predators such as the yellow crazy ant.

  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    animal migration Noun

    process where a community of animals leaves a habitat for part of the year or part of their lives, and moves to habitats that are more hospitable.

    burrow Noun

    small hole or tunnel used for shelter.

    crab Noun

    type of marine animal (crustacean) with a flat body, hard shell, and pincers.

    hatch Verb

    to emerge from an egg.

    hazard Noun

    danger or risk.

    Indian Ocean Noun

    one of Earth's four oceans, bordered by Africa, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica.

    instinct Noun

    natural motivation or behavior.

    larva Noun

    a new or immature insect or other type of invertebrate.

    lunar cycle Noun

    complete cycle of visible phases of the moon, approximately 29.5 days.

    migration Noun

    movement of a group of people or animals from one place to another.

    ocean Noun

    large body of salt water that covers most of the Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ocean
    plateau Noun

    large region that is higher than the surrounding area and relatively flat.

    Encyclopedic Entry: plateau
    predator Noun

    animal that hunts other animals for food.

    rain forest Noun

    area of tall evergreen trees and a high amount of rainfall.

    tide Noun

    rise and fall of the ocean's waters, caused by the gravitational pull of the moon and sun.

    Encyclopedic Entry: tide
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