Now you may not know this but wentletrap and hermit crab association comes about due to the fact that hermie babies are born without shells and as soon as they are big enough they set about seeking a discarded shell to move into and call home. Wentletrap snail shells are perfect for the job since they are small, no larger than 2 inches at best, and can easily accommodate a tiny hermie baby.
There are several hundred species of wentletrap snail which can be found in all types of ocean. The "precious wentletrap" is one of the most interesting however and was, as it name suggests, quite special. It's not so much its beauty, but supply and demand that determines the price of a shell, and when the snail was first discovered back in the 1600s it was regarded as a royal prize. In fact Catherine the Great and the Queen of Sweden both owned the particular snail shell and it is rumoured thatÂ Francis 1st, the Holy Roman Emperor, paid $20,000 for a snail shell of this type. Because of the high price that a precious type of this snail shell could command, there were many fakes molded from rice paste by Chinese craftsmen which went undetected for many years. It is said that the fraud was discovered when one collector decided to wash his shell and watched in horror as it dissolved. In today's climate the snail shell is far from "precious" and sells for around $10 whereas the rarer paste imitations are more sought after. The hermie and snail connection, however, is as precious as it ever was.
You are unlikely to see a live species of these particular snails since they live off shore and it is usually their empty shells that are often washed ashore. This leads to the snail and hermie connection since baby hermies that have made their way from the ocean to the shore are in the market for tiny snail shells. These snails feed on anemones and coral and exude a pinkish purple dye prior to anesthetizing their prey. Their shells are small, curvy, very white and nearly translucent. The turreted shell consists of whorls that form a highly conical shape with deeply ribbed sculpting. It can be said that hermies have extremely good taste since a shell of this type really is a thing of great beauty.
As mentioned earlier hermies are not "real" crabs since they are born without a shell. In fact one of their closest relations is the spider. Since their abdomens are soft and house their digestive glands as well are their reporductive organs, it is essential for them to find an empty shell which they can carry around with them to protect themselves from predators. Hermies are very choosy when it comes to picking a new home and have been known to fight to the death over the same shell. Wentletrap shells are perfect for the juvenile hermies since they need a close fitting shell which the snail shell provides. They are a lovely spiral shape with either round or oval apertures and a heavy lid. This makes an ideal "front door" for the hermie who can guard it with his large pincer.
So you can see how the wentletrap and hermit crab really is a match made in heaven!About the Author: