How Many Legs do Germit Crabs Have?

Hermit crabs are fascinating creatures that are commonly kept as pets. One question that many people have about them is “how many legs do hermit crabs have?” It may seem like a simple question, but the answer is actually more complex than you might think.

In this article, we’ll explore the anatomy of hermit crabs and answer this question once and for all. So, let’s dive in!

The Number of Legs on a Hermit Crab

When it comes to counting the legs on a hermit crab, things can get a bit tricky. At first glance, it may seem like they have ten legs – just like other crabs. However, upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that some of their “legs” are actually not true legs at all.

So, how many legs do hermit crabs have? The answer is…it depends on how you define a “leg.” Let’s break it down.

To start, hermit crabs have ten appendages that protrude from their body. These include:

  • Two large claws, called chelipeds, that they use for defense and feeding
  • Four smaller walking legs, called pereopods, that they use for movement
  • Two pairs of small legs, called maxillipeds, that they use for feeding
  • A final pair of tiny legs, called uropods, that they use to hold onto their shells

So, by this count, hermit crabs have ten “legs” in total. However, some people may argue that only the walking legs are true legs, which would mean that hermit crabs only have four legs.

In reality, both definitions are correct – it all depends on the context in which the term “leg” is being used. Regardless, hermit crabs are fascinating creatures with unique anatomy that sets them apart from other crustaceans.

The Function of Hermit Crab Legs

Now that we know how many legs hermit crabs have, let’s explore what each set of legs is used for.


The large claws, or chelipeds, of hermit crabs are their primary means of defense. They also use them to capture and crush their food. Hermit crabs have one larger claw, called the “major” claw, and one smaller claw, called the “minor” claw.


The four smaller walking legs, or pereopods, of hermit crabs are used for movement. They allow the crab to walk along the ocean floor, climb over rocks, and move from one location to another. Hermit crabs can move quickly on their pereopods when they need to, but they can also move slowly and carefully when they want to avoid detection.


Hermit crabs have two pairs of small legs, called maxillipeds, that are used for feeding. They use these legs to manipulate their food and bring it up to their mouths. The first pair of maxillipeds is covered in hair-like structures called “setae,” which help trap and filter food particles from the water.


The final pair of legs on hermit crabs are the uropods. These tiny legs are located near the crab’s anus and are used to hold onto their shells. Hermit crabs rely on their shells for protection, and the uropods keep them anchored securely inside

Do All Hermit Crab Species Have the Same Number of Legs?

While most hermit crabs have ten appendages, there are some species that have slightly different numbers. For example, members of the genus Coenobita have ten legs like most hermit crabs, but some other species may have fewer legs.

One example is the genus Diogenes, which has only six legs. These crabs have lost their front two pairs of legs over time as they evolved to live in gastropod shells with smaller openings. With fewer legs, Diogenes crabs can more easily maneuver inside their tight living spaces.

Another example is the family Paguridae, which includes the “anomuran” hermit crabs. These crabs have reduced or modified appendages that serve different purposes. For example, some species have modified their first pair of legs into antennae-like structures for sensing their environment.

How Do Hermit Crab Legs Differ from Other Crab Species?

Compared to other crab species, hermit crab legs have a number of unique features that make them well-suited for their particular mode of living.

Firstly, hermit crabs have relatively long, slender legs that are well-suited for walking rather than swimming. This is because they live in shallow waters or on land instead of in deep water like many other crab species.

Additionally, the front two pairs of legs in hermit crabs have evolved to serve other functions, such as defense, feeding, and holding onto shells. In other crab species, these legs are primarily used for walking, but in hermit crabs, they have been adapted to serve different purposes.

Another key difference is that hermit crabs have the ability to retract their legs fully into their shells for protection. Most other crab species do not have this ability and rely on other means of defense, such as spines or armor plating.

Finally, hermit crabs are unique in their dependence on shells for protection, and their modified uropods allow them to hold onto their shells for long periods of time. This is a key difference between hermit crabs and other crab species, which do not rely on shells in the same way.

Can Hermit Crabs Regrow Lost Legs?

Like many other animals, hermit crabs have the ability to regenerate lost limbs under certain conditions. However, the ability to regrow legs is not universal across all species of hermit crabs, and the process can take several molts to fully complete.

In general, hermit crabs have a higher likelihood of being able to regrow lost legs if they are younger and smaller, as their bodies have more energy and resources to devote to the process. Additionally, a healthy diet and living conditions can also help support regeneration efforts.

The process of regrowing limbs in hermit crabs begins with the formation of a small “bud” at the site of the injury. Over time, this bud grows and develops into a new limb, which is initially smaller and weaker than the original limb. However, with each successive molt, the regenerated limb grows stronger and more fully formed.

It’s important to note, however, that while hermit crabs can regenerate lost limbs, it’s not always a perfect process. The regenerated limbs may be slightly different in shape or size from the original, and there may be some scarring or other residual damage at the site of the injury.


In summary, the number of legs on a hermit crab can vary depending on how you choose to define a “leg.” While most hermit crabs have ten appendages in total, some species may have fewer or modified appendages that serve different functions.

Regardless of the number of legs, each set of appendages on a hermit crab serves a specific purpose, from defense and feeding to movement and shell attachment. Hermit crab legs have evolved to be uniquely suited for their particular mode of living and offer fascinating insights into the adaptations of these creatures.

Understanding the anatomy and function of hermit crab legs is essential for anyone interested in keeping these delightful creatures as pets or studying them in the wild. Whether you’re a hermit crab enthusiast or simply curious about these fascinating creatures, we hope this article has shed some light on how many legs hermit crabs have and what makes them such unique and remarkable animals.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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