Red Crab Migration

Red Crab Migration

Everyday, millions of creatures are born into a life on the march, on the wing, on the run. They are migrants. Born to move.


6 - 12+



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Great Migrations

Red crabs (Gecarcoidea natalis) are native to Christmas Island, Australia. The central plateau of Christmas Island is dominated by strands of rainforest. The island has a tropical climate and experiences both a wet season (December through April) and a dry season (May through November).

More than 120 million red crabs can be found on the rainforest floor of Christmas Island. Red crabs live alone in dirt burrows, or deep rock crevices. Crabs stay in the shade of their dwelling for most of the year. In October or November, when the wet season is about to return, crabs begin their migration to the shore. This timing coincides with the lunar cycle and the tides.

Video 1: First, the male crabs meet the females on the shore. The males dig dens near the shore for the females to brood, or hatch, their eggs. Once they've mated, the males return to the forest and the females retreat to their dens.

Video 2: After 12 or 13 days of brooding their eggs, and with the arrival of the waning moon, female red crabs make a journey to the sea. Females reach the shore and release their eggs in the water. The waning moon plays a critical role in this stage of migration. The angle of the moon creates a neap tide, resulting in tides that are milder than usual. This gives the offspring a greater chance of survival.

Video 3: When released, the eggs hatch almost instantly, but the larvae remain in the water for one month, growing through several larval stages. Few are able to survive the harsh ocean currents and marine predators. Those that do survive begin the journey back into the rainforest, battling predators such as the yellow crazy ants along the way.

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National Geographic Society
Page Producer
Makayla Trotter
Nina Page, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

January 11, 2024

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