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Do Crabs Eat Baby Turtles? (Predatory Crabs Vs. Baby Turtles)

Do Crabs Eat Baby Turtles

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Baby turtles live an independent life, i.e. they have to watch their backs after they hatch in the wild. Many predators such as eagles, seagulls, raccoons, etc. feast on baby turtles during this vulnerable phase. But do crabs eat baby turtles as well?

Crabs eat baby turtles, although they’re not a part of their usual food group. Crabs are opportunistic feeders, and as such, if the opportunity arises, medium or large-sized crabs can hunt down weak baby turtles to meet their hunger.

While it sounds unsavoury, crabs and turtles have a push-and-pull relationship. Under the right circumstances, neither will refrain from devouring the carcasses of the other.

read all our guides on baby turtle feeding!

Key Takeaways

  • Wild crabs do eat baby turtles.
  • Pet crabs can kill and eat turtles, too.
  • Crabs use their claws to pinch through the necks and shells of loggerhead sea turtles in the wild.
  • Baby turtles have soft and sensitive shells.
  • Crabs are opportunistic feeders and can prey on injured or dead baby turtles for meat.
Baby Red Eared Sliders

Why Do Crabs Eat Baby Turtles?

Crabs don’t usually go for baby turtles. However, under exceptional circumstances, they may feast on the weaklings. Here are a few potential reasons why crabs can choose to kill and eat baby turtles in the wild –

Crabs Are Omnivores

Crabs are not only opportunistic feeders but also predominantly omnivores in nature. While they don’t actively seek baby turtles to eat, they don’t mind feeding on the carcasses if the opportunity arises.

Crabs consume protein from multiple sources in their habitat. As such, if baby turtles are abundant in the area, crabs won’t hesitate to kill or eat them.

Size Differences

In reality, adult turtles hunt down crabs more than prey on turtles. And that’s because turtles grow to be bigger than crabs in most cases.

Plus, like crabs, turtles are opportunistic feeders as well. Hence, giant turtles often hunt down the smaller crabs when hungry.

On the contrary, medium-sized crabs can easily overpower baby turtles. Baby turtles can’t outrun the ‘crabby’ predators as they’re unaware of the environment after hatching. Their only option is to run towards the water to be safe for the time being. While they desperately try to run towards the ocean, many baby turtles get eaten by the crabs on the beach.

Lack Of Protection

Mother turtles don’t stick around after laying the eggs. In fact, even after hatching, most turtles never really get to meet their parents in the wild, i.e., they live independently.

As such, there’s no adult or parent figure to protect the baby turtles once they hatch. Crabs and other nearby predators can easily pick and devour them off one by one.

[Read More: How Do Mother Turtles Feed Their Babies?]

Baby Turtles Have Underdeveloped Carapaces

Turtles aren’t born with highly rigid shells. The carapace gets harder as they age.

As baby turtles have soft shells compared to adult ones, it’s easier for the crabs to pinch through these shells to immobilize and kill the hatchlings.

Wild Crabs Are Scavengers

Besides being opportunistic feeders, crabs showcase scavenging tendencies as well. Many baby turtles die due to natural causes before reaching the ocean. Small crabs then feast on the dead bodies to help them decompose faster.

Crabs Eating Baby Turtles: A Vicious Circle Of Life

In 2021, Hung-Chang Liu captured giant crabs feasting on baby turtles on Christmas Island. The footage showcased the crabs tearing apart the soft skin of the baby turtles with their pincers to get to the meat underneath.

Another nature photographer, Mark Smith, captured a similar moment in Melbourne, Florida.

His footage showcased the crabs hunting down baby turtles while they were rushing to the ocean after hatching. This clip confirms that crabs (ghost crabs, red crabs, etc.) are faster than baby turtles on the sand. Also, crabs use the pincers to hold down the baby turtles so they can’t escape.

These videos prove that crabs not only eat baby turtles but also like to hunt them down like live targets. Millions of baby turtles hatch at once in the wild. While they all attempt to rush towards the ocean, local predators like seagulls, crabs, etc., kill and devour hundreds of babies.

[Check out: What Do Newborn Turtles Eat?]

baby sea turtles

Is It Safe To Put Turtles & Crabs In A Tank Together?

Keeping turtles and crabs together in a tank is not a good idea. While crabs and turtles require similar tank and temperature conditions, they’re incompatible partners.

And here’s why –

Turtles & Crabs Are Both Omnivores

Turtles and crabs are both opportunistic feeders and omnivores. Even though turtles become increasingly vegetarian as they grow old, they don’t denounce protein completely. So, if the crabs are much smaller than the turtles in the tank, they can quickly become food for the turtles.

[Do turtles eat fruits alongside vegetables? Find out in – What Fruits Can Baby Turtles Eat?]

Alternatively, if baby turtles are in the tank, the crabs can seriously injure or even kill them. It depends on who can overpower the other before losing the fight.

Playful Injuries Can Lead To Death

Crabs can use their claws to pinch the turtles for defense and offence. These playful injuries can lead to infections and eventual death.

Hence, even if crabs can’t consume giant and adult turtles directly, they can still contribute to their death.

Many people think hermit crabs can co-exist with red-eared sliders or other pet turtles. But I will advise against keeping them in the same tank to avoid casualties.

Before You Go

Truth is – turtles prey on crabs significantly more than crabs can prey on turtles. However, crabs can overpower baby turtles and feast on them after they hatch. While it’s ghastly information, it’s simply a part of the natural cycle.

And crabs aren’t the only predators to hunt down and eat baby turtles. Read up on – Why Do Turtles Eat Their Babies?

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.

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