You’ve heard of king crabs, now meet the mighty coconut crab.
An Australian man fearlessly posed with one of the massive critters, going so far as to raise it up in the air, after stumbling upon a cluster of them on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean late last month.
“They look scary but are gentle giants, really. To get nipped by one you have to be pretty slow,” Mark Pierrot, who’s seen snapped in the photo along Dolly Beach, told The Huffington Post of his close encounter in an email.
Though the crabs, also known as robber crabs, may appear out of this world to many, they’re quite bountiful on the island thanks to them being a protected species, allowing them to live up to 70 years old, according to the island’s tourism association.
In the course of that lifespan they can grow up to 3 feet long — from leg to leg — making them the largest land-living arthropods in the world, according to British wildlife resource, Wildscreen Arkive.
“Some robber crabs you can pick up with one hand but this guy was pretty big so two hands (were) needed,” Pierrot said. “It was pretty heavy, more than 5 kg (11 pounds) I reckon.”
That’s not to say that they aren’t a force to be reckoned with.
The tree-climbers have pincers that are strong enough to crack open coconuts. They can also lift weights up to 62 pounds, according to Wildscreen Arkive.
They’ve even been blamed for carrying off the remains of legendary pilot Amelia Earhart after she vanished during a round-the-world flight in 1937. That eerie theory was suggested by researchers at The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery in 2012.
Still, Pierrot — who grew up on Christmas Island — finds them anything but scary.
“I can see how people would find them creepy, but they are pretty timid creatures and its funny how much people are freaked out by them,” he said.
“I think this is a pastime lots of locals have had,” he said of posing with them, “and I’ve handled them before so wasn’t worried at all.”