Photos of the Yearly Migration of Christmas Island Crabs to the Sea

kid watching migrating crabs

Photographer James D Morgan documented the yearly migration of red crabs across Christmas Island for Australian Geographic. It is an annual event of these tiny critters as they make for the sea to reproduce. The mass exodus is headed by the males, with the females following their lead. These crabs will be spending many weeks scampering to the ocean which at times can be as distant as 9km.  Along the way to their destination, it is quite perilous. Nearly half a million crabs do not make it back according to ranger Max Orchar, even though locals try their best to allow the crabs to do their thing unhampered. Most of the casualties are from uncaring motorists that run over the critters as they cross main roads.

crabs swarm tree

As soon as the males arrive at the shoreline, they begin to dig special burrows. These burrows serve as honeymoon nests where the mating takes place upon the arrival of the females. After the loving, the males proceed to begin the laborious trek back inland. The females on the other hand remain behind for around 14 days, laying eggs and waiting for them to mature. These eggs are nurtured in a brood pouch that is found between the female crab’s thorax and abdomen, and is capable of holding up to 100,000 eggs. The timing is very precise when the females release the eggs, just before dawn during high tide. They make their way to the waterline to release the eggs, which takes place for several nights.

christmas island crabs

Morgan muses on this yearly phenomenon he has been wanting to document.

“Having been a professional photographer for over 20 years, there has been one wonder in the animal world I have always wanted to shoot: one of the most amazing migrations which takes place each year on Christmas Island. This annual event sees millions of terrestrial red crabs swarm across the island in the hope of making it to the sea. “

people sweeping crabs off street

crabs on christmas island

kid looking at crab on stairs

See the mass exodus of the island crabs here.

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.