Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sea slaters: Beach cleanup crew

Three NAKED facts

NF#1: Sea slaters are NOT cockroaches. They are not insects. They are more like crabs and shrimps (They are crustaceans.)

Sea slaters can be quite colourful and pretty if you take a closer look at them.NF#2: Sea slaters move very fast!

Thoughtful question: How many legs do you think the sea slater has? Any guesses?

They have seven pairs of legs! They have huge eyes and very long antennae. They also have a pair of long 'tails'. So sometimes it's hard to tell which is the front and which is the back end of a sea slater.

Sea slaters only come out at low tide. They are well adapted for life out of water, breathing air directly through 'pseudo-lungs'. In fact, they will drown if kept under water for a long time!

NF#3: Sea slaters help keep the beach clean. They are scavengers, nibbling on whatever recently died on the shore. At low tide, they swarm over the rocks hunting for food. Thus anything that dies on the beach is quickly cleaned up. It's a natural process of recycling.

Corny joke: Don't worry. Sea slaters won't bite or eat you. Unless you are dead.

But sea slaters can't eat up plastic, glass, metal or other man-made litter. There is no natural process to clean our rubbish! We should not litter.

Hints for Naked Hermit Crabs

Sea slaters are often the first things visitors see. Some people may freak out, especially those with a phobia for cockroaches; and if the swarms of slaters are very large.

It's probably best to explain what sea slaters are as early as you can, to pre-empt any hysteria.

I don't know how to catch a sea slater without hurting it or myself in the process. But I find it's easy enough to talk about them even if you don't have one at hand.

You could tell everyone to stand still so the sea slaters come out. This is also a good excuse to get them to practice quiet observation.

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