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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

I've Got Crabs

Author: Reilly Capps/Saturday, June 15, 2013/Categories: natural history

By Reilly Capps

Some animals capture our imaginations and pull at our heartstrings. Orcas and pandas become stuffed animals. Turtles and dolphins become tattoos you'll later regret.

Other animals make us retch. 

Crabs, for instance. They're like hard-shelled spiders, except they nip our toes. They're a crustacean -- we've included, in their name, the word "crusty." We've taken, from their name, the word "crabby." These are not nautical puppy dogs. These are living, breathing, STDs

But if you look at them longer, they start to take on characteristics, turn human. Like looking at clouds until you see a bunny. 

Their little frowny faces and their stumbling, bumbling way of walking, like a drunk or an invalid hobbling home -- that's why these crabs are compelling. They're pathetic -- in the best sense of that word. 

Watch them get born, in the legendary crab heaven of Christmas Island. Though they are something we'd squash if we found them in our beach house, or crack open if we found them on our dinner plate, they look, here, oddly ... cute. Just little babies, alone in the world. Red headed orphans. You want to be Daddy Warbucks, and get them a blanket and serenade them to sleep. 

They have no advantages except their doggedness. No rock will stop them. No stream of cars can squash them. They have no comforts except for the fact that they walk sideways, which must make it easy to do walk-and- talks. They'd be perfectly cast in TV shows by Aaron Sorkin

The downside of sideways walking is that they're constantly bumping into things, including each other. Their whole lives must be spent apologizing-- "Scuse me, scuse me, scuse me, didn't see you, didn't see you, my eyes can't face forward." 

And they draw deep sympathy due to the fact that they are threatened by an animal called the Yellow Crazy Ant. The Yellow CRAZY ANT, which must be a name the crabs themselves came up with.

"Look out for that ant!" one crab must've yelled to another as they ran face-to-face. 

"Which ant?" asked the other. 

"That yellow ... crazy ant!" 

"I can't see it!" the other crab wailed. "My eyes can't face forward!"

My only point is that most animals -- not just the "cute" ones -- become more and more sympathetic the longer you look at them. And looking makes them more human, but it also makes us more human. Humans are the only animal that sees himself in other species.

Walking through the world without looking closely at the animals living in it is like walking through an art gallery without turning your head. Life becomes one long, boring hallway toward death. 

There's a lesson from the crab: turn your head as you walk, take in the scenery. Stop and smell the saltwater air. Beware yellow crazy ants. 

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