Hermit crabs are in danger. Many creatures are mistaking plastic for shells and they are getting trapped inside. An Australian study found that more than 500,000 hermit crabs die each year. Hermit crabs do not have shells of their own, instead they look for shells to make their homes.

Many of the killed animals live on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands located in the Indian Ocean. Dr. Jennifer Lavers, leader of the study said in a statement, “When we were surveying debris on the islands, I was struck by how many open plastic containers contained hermit crabs, both dead and alive.”

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The volume of plastic made for staggering problems for the crabs and other marine animals. The plastic creates a “physical barrier” for the animals, and often acted as a trap for the crabs. Approximately 1-2 crabs per square meter were trapped in this way.

The “gruesome chain reaction” of hermit crab deaths is caused by their communication about available shells. Dr. Alex Bond, who helped with the study, explained how the hermit crabs communicate, ” Hermit crabs do not have a shell of their own, which means that when one of their compatriots die, they emit a chemical signal that basically says ‘there’s a shell available’ attracting more crabs who fall into the containers and die, who then send out more signals that say there are more shells available.”

Hermit crabs play a pivotal role in their environments, spreading seeds and fertilizing soil.

Watch this video about the study:

Read more One Green Planet news about how plastic has been harming marine life around the globe. Birds on the Midway Atoll in Hawaii are being choked by plastic, as are birds in the United Kingdom. A new study was recently published about manta rays in Indonesia consuming plastic at alarming rates.

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There are products you may be using or habits you may have that contribute to plastic pollution. Learn more about how the use of Teabags, Cotton Swabs, Laundry, Contact Lenses, Glitter and Sheet Masks pollute our oceans so you can make more informed decisions going forward. There are also numerous simple actions and switches that can help cut plastic out of our lives including, making your own cosmetics, shampoo, toothpaste, soap, household cleaners, using  mason jars, reusable bags/bottles/straws, and avoiding microbeads

To learn more about the impact of plastic waste, please read the articles below: 

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