Hermit Crab Living Inside Toothpaste Cap Highlights Plastic Pollution Of Marine Habitats [Photo]

A photo snapped by a tourist in Cuba shows a hermit crab living inside the cap of a toothpaste tube apparently dropped by a tourist. Nature lovers are saying that the photo illustrates the extent of plastic waste pollution of marine ecosystems.

The image is one of several that have emerged on the social website Reddit, showing hermit crabs using plastic containers in place of salvaged empty seashells for shelter and protection from predators.

The image was uploaded by Reddit user HSmidt, who said his girlfriend spotted the crab scuttling about on a beach in Cuba with its body partly housed in the toothpaste cap.

Hermit crabs usually find empty shells belonging to marine creatures — such as sea snails — which they use to protect their soft abdomen from predators. When the creature outgrows its adopted shell, it must abandon it and find a new one.

But with increased dumping of plastic waste in the oceans, hermit crabs have been found to use plastic containers where they are unable to find empty seashells.

The photo has caused shock and outrage among nature lovers. But some Reddit users argued that hermit crabs have learned to use man-made containers in place of naturally occurring shells, and that the condition of the hermit crab shown in the photo is not as bad as it seems because the creature only uses the plastic until it is able to find a suitable shell.

Reddit user Karrachr000 argued that the use of man-made objects for protection by hermit crabs is commonplace and not necessarily harmful to the creatures.

“Crabs will opt for a non-standard shell (like toothpaste caps, light bulb bases, broken bottle tops, jars, or even coconut shells) usually when they cannot find an actual shell of the correct size. These can sometimes be a temporary home until they find a more suitable one,” he wrote.

Other Reddit users supported the argument.

“I managed to find a hermit crab in Cuba which was using a suncream lid as its shell,” Spyder1012 said.

Another user, Goproheroics, found two hermit crabs in Palau “using a Vaseline container and a tin can as homes.”

Reddit user Masgrada found “a cool water bottle top crab in Key West. There’s a secret legion of these guys it seems.”

“This guy looks very familiar to one I saw in Nicaragua,” Reddit user Mackykb added.

But many nature lovers insist that the photos illustrate the destruction of our environment and damage to the marine ecosystem by indiscriminate dumping of plastic waste in our seas.

Reddit user Larenardemaigre wrote, “This makes me happy and kinda sad at the same time.”

The outrage is not unconnected with recent reports of serious injury to marine species due to plastic trash dumped in marine habitats.

The Inquisitr reported recently the case of a male Olive Ridley sea turtle that was found off the coast of Costa Rica with a plastic drinking straw lodged deep in its nostril. The research team that found the animal was forced to perform a crude operation (see video below) to extract the 10 cm long plastic straw from the creature’s nostril.

It is estimated that humans dump about eight million tons of plastic bottles, tops, bags, and other waste into the oceans every year. Some sea animals mistake such rubbish for food and ingest them. Turtles, for instance, often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and ingest them. This often leads to death through obstruction of the digestive passage.

[Images via Imgur]