His eyes grew wide as he stammered his word, “Don’t move.” He then slowly backed away from the scene unfolding before his eyes.
Mark didn’t understand what his friend was talking about, then noticed claws, and many legs. He felt his pulse quicken and his legs freeze in place.
It was an ordinary day for Mark, the 32-year-old man was taking a walk with his friend. They knew where a secret place was in the Christmas Island National Park.
Mark was curious and loved the outdoors. He didn’t know that this particular trip would have a few twists and turns.
Even though the island is called Christmas Island, it is actually very tropical and located on an island between Indonesia and Australia.
Mark decided that he’d settle on the island 3 years ago. The island is only home to 1,400 people. He originally just went there on vacation but loved it so much that he had to stay. But he had no idea what he would find later on.
A new day had dawned on the island and Mark was keen for an adventure, he proposed the route to his friend David who excitedly agreed.
They both ate their morning meals before packing bags and meeting up. But neither of them knew what they were about to find.
The Secret Route
The two headed towards where they knew the secret hot spring was. They had been told by locals where it was and were excited to see it.
The secret was allegedly the most well kept on the island. Now that Mark and his friend knew about it, there was no stopping them from going there.
After walking for around an hour Mark noticed that thick vegetation was blocking their path. It looked like there was no way around.
Mark thought that the initial blockage was due to a boulder. But then it quickly ran away. It clearly wasn’t a rock.
Mark’s blood ran cold. What had he just seen? David didn’t seem to notice, was he seeing things?
Mark followed the creature, he wanted to know what it was, even if the curiosity was mixed with a little bit of fear. He should have stayed back.
After following the creature he finally found it. Now that he could clearly see it he noticed its striking colors. It looked kind of like a crab. But it was different.
Driven by curiosity more than fear, Mark decided to approach the strange creature. Even if maybe it wasn’t the smartest move.
Its chitin had beautiful colors of red, blue, and orange. It’s thick legs grew outwards to show off a powerful stance.
Mark kept creeping closer in amazement. It had spines that grew out of its shell and it made a clicking noise as it moved. Then Mark almost tripped in bewilderment with what he just realized he had come across.
Making The Connection
The prehistoric crab dates back to 95 million years ago. Mark remembered reading about their extinction when he was younger but more importantly, he remembered their strange features.
Mark looked at the crab again and took note of its huge size, bent claws, its big eyes that had no sockets and its leg-like mouth. His heart started to pound.
In 2019, scientists in America, discovered a fossil of this prehistoric crab. Its species is called Callichimaera perplexa, which translates to “perplexing beautiful chimera.” This is due to its vibrant colours and unique appearance.
Mark immediately whipped out his phone to take a picture of it. Was he really witnessing the reappearance of a lost species? There was only one way to find out.
Staring In Shock
Sensing the creature was harmless, Mark bent down on his hunkers and called for his friend. David soon appeared out from the bushes. “I’ve been looking for…you”, he said as he took in the huge beast.
“What on earth is that?”, David said. Without thinking, Mark threw him his phone and asked him to take a picture. What he did next would shock the world.
Picking It Up
Mark swiftly picked up the giant crab with his bare hands and posed with the mysterious creature that suddenly seemed so gentle. But Mark had no idea what he was dealing with.
Sure he had found a long lost species, if not the ancient Callichimaera perplexa, he immediately called the National Park center. That’s when the interest in this beast really started to build.
Crab expert Max Orchard spent over 22 years on Christmas Island National Park working with world-leading researchers on the variety of crab found on Christmas Island.
You see, Christmas Island was something of an anomaly when it came to the numerous different species of crab that lived there. For Orchard, discovering a new species on Christmas Island really wasn’t too far fetched.
De-extinction Or Endangered
From his profession, Orchard knew that de-extinction was possible. Also known as species revivalism, this is the process where scientists can generate an organism that either resembles or is the extinct species.
If this wasn’t a case of de-extinction, Mark could have found a rare and endangered species. Although it’s easy to think humans have discovered every creature on earth, that’s simply and sometimes surprisingly, not that case.
Mark hung up the phone and posted his picture online with the caption “anybody know what this is?”. But as he was typing, David nervously began to call out to him.
“Don’t move, dude”, David choked. Confused by his reaction, Mark looked around. Sure enough, he saw the cause of David’s distress. Just behind his foot another 3-meter claw swung into his forevission.
Its unexpected presence gave Mark a sudden fright and he dropped his phone. Mark stepped back in astonishment at not only finding one of these species, but two! Were they in danger?
Mark reasoned with himself that the creatures were friendly and decided to stay with them and wait in nervous anticipation for the crab expert, Max Orchard to arrive. Did he really find a long-forgotten creature?
When Max Orchard came to the scene, Mark pointed him to the creatures that remained resting beside him.
With a smile, Max Orchard told Mark that he knew exactly what they were. They were Coconut crabs, a species of crab that have lived on Christmas Island for decades. But Mark picked one up – are they dangerous?
Looking For Something
“The biggest one I’ve seen is about 4.5kg in weight, and about one-metre across,” Orchard said, “No one really knows for sure how old they are. The 2-3 kg crabs are about 50 years old”.
He told Mark that they are a gigantic cousin to the water-based hermit crab that we all know and love. Then he asked Mark to show him his hands.
Although many people wouldn’t have dared to pick up one of these giant crabs, they are actually friendly giants. Orchard made sure that Mark didn’t have any cuts, otherwise a tetanus shot may be required. As with all cuts you may get from wildlife.
Although Mark’s hands were fine, Orchard did warn him of something else.
Orchard told him that they have a tendency to steal. He pointed to his phone that was now firmly within the claws of one of the crabs.
Gently, Orchard grabbed his phone from the unassuming thief and explained their odd behavior to steal and crush whatever unfortunate locals and tourists may leave behind.
A Notorious History
Over the years, Orchard had responded to numerous reports of theft in the park. “When I first went to Christmas Island in the early ’90s, the army came over to do some training on the island. They had just been issued with new Steyr rifles with these plastic butts”, Orchard explained.
“I got a call from the commanding officer who said someone had been out there and stolen one of their rifles”. The culprit?
A.K.A The Robber Crab
You guessed it – the coconut crab (aka the robber crab)! They found the missing Steyr rifle sometime later. The crabs dragged it off and crushed it.
There have been a number of reports of these crabs stealing shoes and camera’s of tourists and locals that pass through and carelessly drop their things or leave them behind. This peculiar behavior becomes especially funny once you learn their age.
Coconut crabs are not only the largest land-based crabs on earth but they are also the longest living! They can easily live up to 120 years old so it is very likely that the crab Mark picked up was older than he was!
Although they’re not dangerous, their claws can still cause harm. But Mark was lucky…
Right Of Passage
Mark left the encounter completely unscathed. He also wondered why the locals didn’t tell him to watch out for them. When he asked, they said that they wanted him to find out more about the island himself.
It wasn’t long before Mark’s post of his exciting find gained attention online.