Birgus latro


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Birgus latro
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1767)
Common Name(s):
English Coconut Crab, Palm Thief, Robber Crab
French Crabe De Cocotier

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 2.3
Year Published: 1996
Date Assessed: 1996-08-01
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Eldredge, L.G.
1994 Rare (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Rare (IUCN 1990)
1988 Rare (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Rare (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Coconut crabs live in areas throughout the Indian and western Pacific oceans.
American Samoa (American Samoa); Australia; British Indian Ocean Territory; Christmas Island; Cook Islands; Fiji; French Polynesia; Guam; India; Indonesia; Japan; Kiribati; Malaysia; Marshall Islands; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Nauru; New Caledonia; Niue; Northern Mariana Islands; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Samoa; Seychelles; Solomon Islands; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Tokelau; Tonga; Tuvalu; Vanuatu
Regionally extinct:
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The populations are reportedly quite large, with one of the largest populations being on Caroline Island. It is believed that the coconut crab is quite common on some islands, but rather rare on others.

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Coconut crabs live alone in underground burrows and rock crevices. They dig their own burrows in sand or loose soil. During the day, the animal stays hidden, to protect itself from predators and reduce water loss from heat. They live almost exclusively on land, and some have been found up to 6 km from the ocean.

Mating occurs near the sea. After this the female lives within 100 metres of the sea to regularly moisten herself with seawater. The young (as zoea) are spawned from the eggs into the water. The zoea takes 3-6 weeks to go through 4-5 zoea stages and form an ampbibious stage called a glaucothoe. The benthic, shrimplike glaucothoe finds a minute shell and after 3-4 weeks it migrates ashore. After about 4 weeks of living around the high tide mark, it transforms into a juvenile crab, which continues to use a gastropod shell for 1-2 years, and lives very secretively in burrows.

They are solitary and usually nocturnal, especially where human activity is frequent. They are omnivorous, commonly eating the fallen fruit of Pandanus and the Coconut Palm.
Systems: Terrestrial; Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The Coconut Crab is esteemed as food. Unfortunately, it is easily over-harvested, because of its complex life-cycle and slow growth rate. Coastal development on many islands also reduces the natural habitat of the crab.

The juvenile coconut crab is vulnerable to introduced carnivores such as rats and pigs, and ants such as the yellow crazy ant.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The coconut crab is protected in some areas, with minimum sizes for taking and a protected breeding period.

Citation: Eldredge, L.G. 1996. Birgus latro. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on 30 March 2015.
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