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the bottom away from the weeds, and, kill the great crab, Cancer pagurus, a having succeeded, much to my surprise, creature which is nearly one hundred he began an unexpected caper. After times their own weight, and which, if working his claws and tail violently it could get hold of them, would grind for some time we saw his purpose, for them to powder; but theirs is only an. in this clear water he made a thick other simile of Man and the Whale, as mud-cloud over six inches high and may be seen at any time under certain four or five inches wide. Instantly he conditions. got into the middle of it, and there he It is customary, when fishing for stood with outstretched arms, hoping great crabs, for the fishermen to deliver and waiting for the coming of the them to buyers about once in the week. prawns. But they seemed aware of his During the interval the crabs are presence, and appeared to know that generally kept in a large wicker store tricks like this had been played before at the bottom of the sea. If it is sandy for the capture of prawns; for they ap- there, they are safe from most enemies; proached cautiously with extended but if the bottom is rough, these pertifeelers, and, after probing the cloud nent rascals are sure to be found there, for a time, evidently found their enemy, and woe betide Cancer pagurus, for, and quickly passed on without entering when night comes, they will instantly the trap.
attack him in the eyes, and so active Soon the cloud subsided, and the crab and constant are they that the great again appeared, and dimly seeing the crab has no chance with them; finally, retreating forms of the prawns, darted they will actually eat his eyes out, and after them, but again without success. death will ensue. What follows may These efforts seemed to be too much be easily guessed. A dead lion is not for the poor hungry one, who soon re- a more welcome treat to the jackal of treated to his old cover.
the desert than a large crab is to this We may next consider Portunus fraternity. puber, or the
When last at Polperro I noticed that
the fishermen were forced to float their VELVET SWIMMING CRAB.
crab stores in the surface of the sea These live in the sea, close on the to avoid these pests. At Mevagissey outside of Carcinus monas, and, being the fishermen are liged to do the night feeders, commit all their depre- same. dations on their neighbors in the dark. By day the velvet swimming crabs
Full-grown specimens are seldom live in the shelter of the rocks and above three inches across the back. under loose stones, but with night they They are rarely found inside ordinary explore the whole neighborhood, and low water spring tides or beyond half when the occasion offers, they are vioa mile from shore.
lent and savage hunters. If food is They are the most fierce and cruel of scarce they delight in the crab and all the smaller crabs; and, with their lobster pots of the fishermen, where red eyes, quick sight and red and blue they can have abundance of rough matmarkings, impress most of the young ter for the effort of eating it; but they fisher-folk with the fear that there is are sure to be up and away (escaping poison in their bite. Hence their com- between the rods) before the morning mon name is the stinging crab; but light, ere the fisherman comes to see their nip will lacerate delicate hands the night's results, for they are equal only. Yet they are desperate charac- to almost any emergency in fighting ters, and do not hesitate to attack and life's battle.
Gosse kept a specimen of these crea: and is used more as a mask to protect tures in his aquarium; and describes them when resting by day than as a him as "a fit representative of those shield in the darkness, for this in their giants that nursery tradition tells of working hours must generally cover as infesting Cambria and Cornwall in them. Good King Arthur's days. Gloomy, Its first phase is seen in some of the grim, strong, ferocious, crafty and younger crabs, which sometimes ven. cruel, he would squat in his obscure ture a little above low water spring lair watching for the unsuspecting deni- tides in company with Carcinus mænas. zens of the tank to stray near; or would These put on an indefinite brownish now and again rush out and seize them hue, blending well with the color of with fatal precision. As the Giant their neighbors; no pink or blue shades Grim of old spared not ordinary-sized are seen, and even their eyes lack the men for any sympathy of race, so our pertinent red lustre seen in their fel. giant crab had no respect for lesser lows of the same size lying further out, crabs, except a taste for their flesh. where other hues preponderate. This was torn off and eaten wito gusto, The larger forms, found under the while the rest of the animal
stones at extreme low water, where wrenched limb from limb with savage zoophytes and other life give a pinkish wantonness, and the fragments scat- hue to their cover, and where dark tered in front of his cave."
pebbles with a blue shade cover the Their enemies are probably the nurse- bottom, color all their joints and interhound of Couch, the Great Northern stices red, and their claws black or diver, which I have seen feeding on blue. them for months together, and also the The whole body has a plush covering otter. The evidence of the latter being of a velvet consistence which gives the in this list came in rather an indirect crab its name. This, to suit their enmanner. I once kept two young otters, vironment, can be modified into light and on being fed with ordinary fresh drab or brown, and when darker colors fish they gave me no little anxiety, are still wanting the plush is often for they did not thrive nor relish their rubbed off the back in places, showing food satisfactorily. In considering the their dark form and giving them a color habits and life history of their parents, suitable to their surroundings. it struck me that they must certainly But their greatest mimicry seems to come in contact with our shore crabs, be on the first sight of the human form. and possibly eat them, or give them as No doubt they are much frightened at food to their young. In trying the ex- the appearance of this burly, beak. periment with a batch (among them faced, glaring animal, a creature more was the Portunus) which I presented than a thousand times their size and to these youngsters, the sight was some- with incomprehensible strength. thing to be remembered, for they al- A malformed giant visiting the earth most jumped out of the barrel to secure from one of the planets could not be them and ate them in a few seconds. more terrifying to us than man seems With this change of food I had no more to be to these creatures. Their first act trouble with my charge, and I think is to fight him or feign death in his this is fair evidence that the otter is an presence.
I have more than once enemy of Portunus puber.
watched their actions when a large Their mimicry is seen in many forms, stone had been quietly lifted off their
resting place. Instantly they are either • See Gosse's Aquarium, p. 198; also White's British Crustacea, p. 48.
glaring at the intruder with their nip
pers up for a fight, or they lie as quiet as the pebbles around them without moving a muscle. If taken in the hand they will sometimes allow their claws to be placed in any form without resistance, and even if put on the beach will keep their claws in the same form, for а considerable time, if they were really dead among the weeds; and yet all the while, from the angle of their eyes, it can be seen that they are intently watching their visitor.
The females in this species, unlike most other crabs, are about the same size as the males, and the propagation of the race is continued much on the same lines as that of the shore crab, only in a little deeper water; the males visiting the females in their sheltered homes and protecting them from their enemies when passing thfough the weakness and utter helplessness of exuviation.
I will now consider the habits and mimicry of Cancer pagurus, or the
climatic causes, as the Land's End and Scilly Isles on the one hand and the shores of the English Channel on the other ought to have a water temperature not much unlike this district. Nor can it be from the nature of the sea bottom, for rough grounds suitable for these creatures exist both to the east and the west of this Land of the Giants.
The facts point to some kind of food as being the cause of the massive size of these creatures; and, therefore, I think it would be worth while for some county council, or even the Government, to send an expert to look up this question. If the real tid-bits cannot be discovered, there is the crossing of the breeds to fall back on; and if results come out as some other mixing of superior with inferior races bas done, an incalculable benefit will be conferred on the crab fisheries of Britain.
Like crabs generally, the great crab is fond of secrecy, and, being a night feeder, it usually hides in caverns and crevices or under the sands by day, and hunts or lies in wait for its prey by night. Not being nimble in its movements, its captures are achieved more by feats of strategy and cunning than by activity. Its powers of smell and eyesight are fairly good, and it prefers fresh, red-colored fish as food, such as the red gurnard, red mullets and bream, or the strongly perfumed flesh of the whitehound shark. Evidently one of its habits when on the war-path is to stand quiet in the night with extended arms and open nippers, in the shadow of some great rock or group of tall sea-weeds, and then grip at all comers. If this scheme fails, it seeks the sands and buries itself there, with the exception of its eyes and the tips of its nippers; here it awaits the moving of soles, plaice and other sand-wandering life. That these crabs are apt at this work, may be seen on their first capture by
Although this creature is found everywhere on the rough sea bottom near the British Isles, it is a question if such extremes of matured life can be found connected with any animal forms without an apparent cause, for here we have dwarf and colossal life on the broadest lines yearly perpetuated as extremes of the race.
I have been led to believe that the finest crabs exist between Dartmouth in Devon and the Lizard headland in Cornwall, where males are often known to reach thirteen and fourteen pounds weight, and where they are only called half-crabs when under eight inches across the back; whereas on most other parts of the British Isles crabs two or three pounds weight and six or seven inches across the back are considered large. It would be interesting to know why this is. It can scarcely be from
LIVING AGE. VOL, VIII. 399
man, for they will often stand in this off the coasts, and in their caverns attitude for ten minutes together, and crevices in the spring pass through awaiting the approach of the human the process of exuviation and often hand.
congress. After they have revelled in the food It is from this section that the fisherof our summer seas, in the autumn a men draw their early supplies ere the mass of red matter gathers in the older females return from the deep sea carapace of the females, which is the spawning grounds. material for a new shell, or the sub- It may not be out of place to remark stance to be used in the formation of here that exuviation is not absolutely eggs if these are not actually in exist- a yearly act. In the younger forms it ence. With the first autumn storms is passed through as often as they can the whole family divides into two parts; find food to supply nature's conditions, the maternal or egg-bearing section re- which, in some cases, may be several tiring into deep water where they again times in a year; neither does congress divide; the younger forms, when some always takes place at the time of exuvi. three or four miles from land, going ation, as it is often seen in other phases deep under the sands and hybernating of life. Mimicry in these creatures is there until the spring; while the older an interesting study. members continue the journey to a Their enemies are all the large skates much greater distance, until they find existing on the coasts, with the Octopus deep water out of reach of the storms vulgaris and the nursebound sharks; of winter. Here they rest without while the sea breams and wrasse deburying themselves very deep, as the light in feeding on the remains of their trawler, when fishing by night, often slaughter. catches numbers of them. Through the The skates hunt them with great winter, by a beautiful process, the energy, and with their tough souts eggs, varying from one to two millions rout them out of the crevices of tne in number, are drawn out of the body rocks, and after crushing luem devour by means of a pouch, and attached to them whole. I have seen as tuany as the stems and filaments under the flap five of these crabs in the stomach of or tail.
one skate. How long they remain in this position The octopus also feeds on them ravit is difficult to say. As the bulk of the enously, and, but for their sharp nipcrabs return unburthened to their old pers, would scarcely look for any other haunts in May and June, it seems cer- food. I have more than once seen such tain that their eggs must have been cuttles with their arms bitten clean off, held in situ by the parent until about which, no doubt, was the result of batthis date. And it further seems prob. tling with these crabs. The nurseable that, when developed, the larva is hound also feeds on the smaller forms. left at various depths in the sand, as To fight the battle of life unseen by active larval forms are not plentiful in their enemies is the one great purpose the surface of the sea off the coasts of these creatures; hence mimicry of until July and August. On the other rather a high order is quickly assumed hand the second division of these fe- by them. Thus when they are living males, which have red matter in them among the dark olive laminarian seafor a new carapace, and which are the weeds, a dark chocolate color is put on, younger forms of the race, retire, pro- which so quietly blends with these tected and guarded by the males, to weeds that their forms cannot be dis. the rocks and vast reefs, which abound tinguished among these dark olive con
ditions; while in deeper water on the having a rough bottom and eight or low rocks and brown sands they cover ten inches of water on it with a cavthemselves with brown hues so that it ern at each end. Although I was is difficult even for sharp eyes to dis- armed with a crab-book or iron gaff tinguish them from their surroundings. about three feet long, the extreme dartBesides this they have another protec- ing and fencing of the lobster were too tion; being night feeders, all crabs who, much for me to grapple with. When with the morning light, find themselves in the deeper cavern I found it could on the sands, instantly bury themselves. see me through the water as plainly This fact is known to the shore trawl- as I could see it; so that here the better ers, who, while fishing by day on cer- constructed eyes of the Genus Homo had tain grounds, will scarcely find a crab; no advantage over the rough, hard, yet, when trawling on the same sands stalk eyes of the crustacean; and as I by night, will catch them in great num- could not get to gaff across it, every bers.
effort I made was evaded; at last, Then they have the wonderful trick however, by mere vigorous and enerof assuming death in difficulties. Let getic gaffing, I made the cavern so unman or their other enemies come upon comfortable for the lobster that, like them, however suddenly, they will in- a lightning flash it darted between my stantly either fight, or mimic the de- legs and into the lesser cavern. Here parted; and so persistent are they in the same game went on and with like this mode of deception that if condi- results; for, in a moment, he was again tions do not change they will continue between my legs and back into his old in this state until death becomes a haunt. Finally, becoming tired of gaffreality.
ing and missing (for its fencing was My next remarks will be on Homarus perfectand could not have been vulgaris, or the
achieved without long practice), I de
clined to be beaten by a mere crustaLOBSTERS.
cean, and proceeded to bail out the These exist on our coasts from the pool. It was only by this effort that lowest spring tides out to thirty-five and I eventually conquered it. And here I forty fathoms of water, which, in some must confess that throughout the battle instances, may be five or more miles so deft, crafty and subtle were its acfrom land. Their home is always in tions that it was like fighting a being sheltered positions. Near the shore by endowed with human intelligence. day they live in holes or caverns, or I have further proof that they maniunder large stones with a free exit, and fest a severe martial spirit in the sea are most plentiful where rocks and when hunting for food. It is nothing sands are in close proximity; when uncommon for fishermen, when drawthis clear, sandy expanse in the twi- ing up their traps in the morning, to light or moonlight can be used as find the large claw of another lobster fencing and hunting ground, as pleas- in the pot beside the prisoner; and there ure or hunger may preponderate, for have been instances when three large they are the most active and warlike claws have been found together under of all our large crabs.
the above conditions, and a lobster with That fencing is a pastime among lob- one arm, as a prisoner, showing that in sters I have no doubt, from some little a recent fight the victor had lost one, experience I have had with them. Once and the vanquished both its arms. But I found a lobster near low water in a these are only trifles compared with pool some nine feet long by six wide, what the late Sir Isaac Coffin saw on