Getting a skinful

August 29, 1997

If deputy premier John Prescott wants to continue taking an active interest in crab life we recommend he contact Southampton University marine scientist Ken Collins, who has just found what he describes as "the most amazing sight I have ever seen" on his own doorstep.

Dr Collins, who has been diving for 25 years, was stunned when his worldwide hunt for grouping spiny spider crabs ended in success just down the road on the Dorset coast. There he found tens of thousands of the crabs, stacked in massive mounds ten crabs high.

"I have dived all over the world, but this local phenomenon definitely ranks with the other wonders of the world," he said. "I can honestly say I have never seen aggregations anywhere near this size."

And why do the crabs meet en masse? According to Dr Collins it may be a question of safety in numbers, with crabs coming together when they periodically shed their protective shells. It takes some hours for new shells to harden leaving the crabs exposed.

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