Viola Stirling’s Nature Diary: 12th April 1920

It is likely that Viola was on holiday from her school for Easter at this point in her diary. She is on holiday in the East Neuk of Fife and describes seeing a hermit crab at Ruby Bay, Elie where she must have been rockpooling.

Hermit crabs are small crustaceans that have soft, spirally curved abdomens and live in the shells of other creatures. When they grow too big for their shell, they seek out another one and move house. As intact gastropod shells are relatively scarce, competition for good shells amongst the tiny crabs can be fierce with fighting over a shell not uncommon. Sometimes queues of crabs form waiting in line to receive the shell of a larger animal as it moves up to the shell vacated by the crab up the line. Interestingly, Viola remarks that the crab looks ‘more like a small green lobster’, as hermit crabs are in fact more closely related to the lobster that to the true crab. There are over 1,000 species of hermit crabs and they are widespread around the British coast. You can read more about hermit crabs here.

Ruby Bay, Elie is now owned by the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust.

Apr. 12th 3.50 p.m. Ruby Bay Elie

Found a hermit crab. At least i suppose it was but

to me it looked more like a small green lobster. It was

living in a large spiral shell the name of which I have

not the slightest idea of. I made a rough drawing

of it, which is lying about somewhere.