Monday, 27 September 2010

Crabs That Made It Out Of Water - Osong; Mud Lobster

This weird inhabitant of our mangroves and creeksides is an Osong or Mud Lobster; Thalassina anomala.

It builds large mounds of mud around its burrows, and this is all I've ever seen of it, so I've stolen the rest of the information from Wikipedia.

T. anomala is a lobster-like animal which grows up to 30 centimetres (12 in) long, but is more typically 6–20 cm (2.4–7.9 in) long. Its colour ranges from pale to dark brown and brownish green. The carapace is tall and ovoid, extends over less than one third of the animal's length, and projects forward into a short rostrum. The tail is long and thin, and, like many burrowing decapods, the uropods are reduced in form, and do not form a functional tail fan with the telson.[4] Various rows of setae on the legs and gills are used to prevent sediment from reaching the gills and for expelling any which does reach them. T. anomala also makes use of "respiratory reversal" to keep the gills free of dirt.

Crabs That Made It Out Of Water

Besides Birgus latro, we have several quite different land crabs around here. They're true crabs that have taken to living on land, or at least halfway between land and sea.

They have all managed the transition between water and air breathing, although often in quite different ways. These are fairly momentous evolutionary steps for mere crustaceans.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Andreas the Asshole - Again

My wonderful next door neighbour has done it again - first he stole the copy from my website and pretended he'd written it himself. Now he's copied a map that I spent a lot of time making (from naval charts, etc). So I'm going to sue him. Not that it will do much good - his wife (Elizabeth) is closely related to the Surigao City legal mafia.

I try to get  people to avoid Patrick's On The Beach, because they will certainly be screwed. Firstly, he charges extra VAT (that is not paid to anybody), and the Service Charges go to him; not to his staff.

Smoked Eel

You might not think that this is a very appetising looking fish. I can assure you it is, and very much sought after.

This English site sells roughly 100gm portions of vacuum packed smoked eel for £6.45 (that's P450/$10/100gm, or P4500/$100 per kilo)

Viktor (phone (+63 920 287 2450) sells exactly the same self-smoked stuff without all the fancy packaging for P401/$7/kilo. It's the same species as American or European eels (or at least one of the two - you have to count their vertebrae to tell the difference, so good luck to you).

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

RIP Herbert

Herbert died last night, just before his scheduled release into the wild (well, my garden). I don't know why he expired so suddenly; I fed him on coconuts, and he seemed very active. There are plenty enough coconuts in my garden to have sustained him.

These crabs never go through a seafood stage; they graduate to a wholly terrestrial lifestyle after only a month's infancy in the sea. The young ones are very common indeed; they are virtually every terrestrial hermit crab you might come across here, and they all have a characteristic large left claw, which closes off their shelter shell..

Piglet Feast

My piglets are now 6 weeks old, so I am going to sacrifice 2 of them as lechon de leche - genuine suckling pigs, and invite a few friends to try them.

Filipinos call anything grill/roasted a Lechon (even a chicken - Litson Manok) so this is just a personal gesture against misunderstood Spanish words.

We're having smoked chicken and various strange pickles as well. Will tell you how they go.

I will be making a stunning pork pate with the heads and feet, plus the livers and hearts. It will be sealed with a mixture of butter and pork fat, and will probably last me a couple of years lke the last one.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Crowd 9

Cloud 9 - The best surf break in the Philippines is not doing very much in this photo, which is why there are so many aspiring surfers trying their stuff.

Too many.

When the break is really pumping, and the rollers are coming in huge from some passing typhoon, none but the brave and foolhardy will even try to surf it.

Very Junior Coconut Crab

This is a fairly junior Coconut Crab (Birgus latro), a crab almost completely land-adapted, except for about a month in the sea in its extreme youth.

This particular one has been visiting my house regularly over the past few years, but I didn't recognise its species.

This very crab has woken me up at night by scrabbling up my book-cases, and falling off.

It has been using the very same Fox Shell (Pleuroploca trapezium) for all this time, but it's getting a bit battered, mainly because I got fed up with it, and used to kick it into the middle distance every time it turned up on my front doorstep.

These, to the right, are part of a harvest of shell-bearing crabs from my garden, collected by my neighbour's little boy. You can probably recognise the fox shell shown above at the top centre. I can't be sure, because I didn't recognise them at the time, but I would bet that most of them are Birgus latro wannabes.

In which case, most of them have very little chance of ever making it to monster size. There are simply not enough large shells on land, or washed up to the top of the beach, to give them ways to grow.

Probably many of these shells will be used over and over again, in a crab's vain hopes of growing up. There is a lot of competition for new houses. Many are called but few are chosen.

Some may well turn into monster terror crabs, if they get a lot more chances, but I think most will have run out of large shells to inhabit in the meantime.

Because of the offshore reef in GL we get very few wavy storms within the lagoon, so very few larger shells get washed up. Most that do end up on land have been harvested by local fishermen. Certain of those, like baler shells, helmet shells, and conchs, are plenty large enough, but have strangely shaped apertures that can't accomodate a crab comfortably. They like a circular aperture that they can easily plug with their major claw and one leg.

About the only local shell that a large Birgus latro can use is a Triton, but these are becoming very rare. If one is seen walking around, the crab is casually sacrificed so the shell can be sold.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Tatos the Terror Crab

Tatos is the local name, but we know it better as Coconut or Robber Crab (Birgus latro). It is reputed to be able to rip apart a whole coconut with its formidable claws; (they are very strong indeed, and the only way to get them to let go, is to tickle its belly, I'm told).

Its only real enemy here is human; this one was the first I've seen in 12 years on this island, and my first thought was to eat it.
This was brought to me a few days ago, and the next day, another smaller one.

This is a juvenile; its tail has not yet acquired its armour, and its two claws are not yet 'straight'. It betrays its youth, which was spent as a hermit crab, in a shell.

At first I kept them in an improvised cage made from two thicknessess of coiled chicken wire with a closure of a single thickness over each end. Hearing a noise later in the evening, I found the big crab halfway out of a hole it had cut in one end of the cage, so I up-ended the cage, and put a pastry board and a couple of heavy books on top of the hole.

That night at about 1:30am, hearing a scraping noise in one corner of the bedroom, I saw the big crab trying to climb the bedroom wall. I got it off the wall with the help of my large cooking spoon, and it faced me off about a foot away, so I whacked it on the head with my spoon. It ran, with astonishing speed, backwards under my bed. No way was I going to crawl under there in the dark, so it stayed there until 7:30 the next morning, when I'd accumulated enough courage to tackle it. (Or rather, I'd told Ron to pick it up).

And here's Uncle Dick breathlessly explaining the Coconut Crab.