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(Photo courtesy: SeaWorld San Diego)

Incredible Time-lapse Footage of Spider Crab Molt at SeaWorld San Diego

Mind-boggling 30-second video shows six-hour process of how world’s largest arthropod essentially outgrows its own shell

San Diego CA— A time-lapse camera was set up above the habitat of one of SeaWorld’s crab species in the hopes of capturing the animal’s dramatic molt process on video. Team members were thrilled to come in the next day and see the result: a 30-second video that shows a Japanese spider crab—the largest arthropod in the world in terms of leg span—molt out of its shell.

While viewers of the video might think they are looking at a creature from outer space, “It’s a perfectly natural occurrence for a spider crab,” says Aquarium Curator Mike Price. “But for us as marine scientists to be able to witness Mother Nature in action in such an impressive way, that’s a great day at SeaWorld!” Price added that the entire molt process took about six hours.

Crabs (and other crustaceans) cannot grow in a linear fashion like most animals. Because they have a hard outer shell (the exoskeleton) that does not grow, they must shed their shells, a process called molting. The frequency of molt is in part determined by their growth rate, which is turn dependent on how much they eat. When the animal essentially outgrows its shell, the molt process begins. It can take anywhere from two to 12 hours.

SeaWorld’s video is a unique and fascinating look into the process, and one that inspires ooohs and aaahs from everyone who sees it.

Guests can check out SeaWorld’s collection of Japanese spider crabs in an exhibit in the Ocean Explorer realm, an area that is also home to the park’s giant Pacific octopuses.