Mixed Rain, Body-Curls

February 12, 2012

Again we could only use the empty word “instinct” to explain the inaudible voice of nature that instructed this creature, as a tiny youngster, to search for an abandoned snail shell of suitable dimensions to put on as a suit of armor.  Crawling alone into the big world, it was never in doubt about what to do.  Inspecting old and vacant snail shells for one of suitable size, it seized the one of just the right dimensions and skillfully threaded it on behind as a protective covering to its soft and shrimp like body.  The body curl had been made by nature to assume the shape of the spiral in the snail shell, and one claw was made much larger than the other and of precisely the right shape to serve as as a close fitting lid to shut the door of the stolen house.  With time, the young hermit crab out grew its childhood dwelling and began to look for a more spacious apartment.  With all its vulnerable hind body curled up inside the snail shell, the long legged hermit stalked about with its borrowed house always on its back, inspecting the available supply of empty shells in the sea or on the beach.  When it found a vacant shell, seemingly tailor made for the period ahead, the dissatisfied tenant positioned himself with his old house beside the new one and only if the size was correct did he cautiously extract his long body-curl from one house and thread it into the next.  His brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles did like-wise and although no other vulnerable animal would think of this ingenious solution for body protection, hermit crabs in all oceans know this is just the right thing for them to do.

Thor Heyerdahl
Fatu – Hiva

p. 115 (Taboo)

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