It’s estimated that there are still hundreds of uncontacted tribes remaining in the world, and footage of one of them was captured last year by a drone in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, CBS reports.
The clip—filmed in 2017 but uploaded to YouTube this week by a Brazilian government agency called the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI)—is only 51 seconds long. In the distance, a person can be seen walking through a forest clearing in the Javari River valley, situated in northwest Brazil near the border with Peru. The agency also released photos of an ax, thatched hut, and canoes found in the area.
According to a statement from FUNAI (translated into English by Google), drone surveillance and ground inspections were undertaken to better protect indigenous groups. FUNAI found two groups of outsiders hunting illegally in the area. In addition, they discovered that a landowner and farmers had been encroaching on land reserved for indigenous peoples. These types of activities can lead to deforestation and violence against indigenous communities, according to The New York Times.
“Vigilance and surveillance should be intensified in the region to curb the actions of violators and ensure the full possession of the territory by the indigenous people,” Vitor Góis of FUNAI said in a translated statement.
The Javari Valley is home to seven contacted peoples and seven uncontacted indigenous groups, according to Survival International. Last month, the agency also released footage of a man who is believed to be the last member of a tribe in the Brazilian state of Rondônia along the Bolivian border. Officials say he has lived alone in the jungle for 22 years, ever since his village “fell victim to landowners and loggers,” CBS reports.
They're huge and antisocial. They will steal your silverware and can rip apart whole coconuts with their claws. Grab a piña colada and enjoy these 10 ginormous facts about the amazing coconut crab.
1. Coconut crabs are colossal.
Native to islands in the Indian and southern Pacific oceans, are truly humongous. They can weigh 9 pounds and measure 3 feet from leg to leg. Coconut crabs are the largest land-living arthropods—the phylum of joint-legged creatures that includes crabs, insects, spiders, and scorpions. Even Charles Darwin was stunned by their “monstrous size.”
But be aware: Occasionally, a viral photo circulates that exaggerates the coconut crab’s size. As biologist Michael Bok explains, the coconut crab in that infamous photo is normal sized, but the trash can is unusually small.
Where does such a bizarre animal fit in the animal kingdom? Are they lobsters? Tarantulas? Space aliens? In fact, Birgus latro is a kind of hermit crab.
You may have seen smaller hermit crabs on a trip to the beach—or for sale at a pet shop. They take shelter inside abandoned snail shells, carrying them around as portable homes. But if coconut crabs are hermit crabs, then why don’t they live in shells? Well, they do—when they’re young and still small.
3. Coconut crabs quickly outgrow their borrowed shells.
Like other crabs, hatchling coconut crabs begin their lives floating freely at sea. After about a month of eating and growing, they find a snail shell and move in. The little coconut crabs carry this mobile home as they begin to transition to a land-based life.
A seashell is a nice, protected place to live, but it has its drawbacks [PDF]. As a crab gets bigger, its shell gets tighter—like an old pair of shoes on a kid who’s growing fast. The crab needs to find a bigger shell and make a quick switch. And that larger home will be heavier to tote around.
So, after a year or so of inhabiting shells, the coconut crab makes a major lifestyle change. It crawls out and hardens the parts of its body that were once protected by the shell by regrowing layers of calcium-based tissues, a process called recalcification. Without its old home, it’s free of size constraints. Now, unlike other hermit crabs, it can become enormous.
4. Coconut crabs eat coconuts, of course ...
This might seem obvious from the coconut crab’s name. But if you’ve ever tried to crack open a coconut, you know that it’s a steep challenge. In fact, a lengthy scientific debate once raged about whether coconut crabs were really able to open the fruit. It turns out that they’re up to the challenge—but they don’t just pop open their prize and dig in.
Breaking into a coconut is a mighty ordeal even if you’re a heavily armored crustacean the size of a small dog. Coconut crabs first use their claws to scrape away the fibrous coating. This can take hours or days. Finally, they stab into the fruit at a weak point and rip it open.
This diet helps coconut crabs grow large: those with access to coconuts may be twice as massive as those without. But eating the fruit isn’t essential for their survival. So what other items do the largest land-living arthropods shove into their maw?
5. ... but they also eat dead animals, their own body parts, and each other.
As well as the occasional biscuit, as you can see in the video above. (Note: Do not feed biscuits to coconut crabs.) A coconut crab’s diet may include other tropical fruits, fallen plant material, dead and decaying animals, rats, and other crab species. They’ll even eat members of their own kind. In fact, biologist Mark Laidre says they only relatively recently evolved to eat coconuts—a skill unique to modern coconut crabs—which helps them to eat each other less.
They also eat their own discarded body parts. As coconut crabs grow, they periodically molt their tough outer layer (the exoskeleton) and grow a new one. Once they’re done molting, which takes about a month, they gobble up their own exoskeleton.
6. Coconut crabs have an amazing sense of smell ...
Coconut crabs often forage at night. How do they find food when they’re wandering around in the dark? They sniff it out. These animals have a strong, highly efficient [PDF] sense of smell. In fact, a large portion of their brain is devoted to detecting odors.
7. ... which might explain why they're thieves.
Coconut crabs are also known as robber crabs because they snatch silverware and other objects and carry them away. Some people have even advanced the gruesome theory that Amelia Earhart’s remains are missing because coconut crabs hauled them down into their burrows. The thievery might be tied to that incredible sense of smell. Coconut crabs ignore objects that have been washed clean of scents, suggesting that they may only abscond with things that carry a faint whiff of food.
8. Coconut crabs are pretty antisocial.
Adult coconut crabs live alone in crevices or burrows. They aggressively guard their privacy; a crab entering another’s burrow risks becoming a meal.
But that’s not the end of their antisocial behavior. When coconut crabs emerge to feed, they keep their distance from each other. To maintain their personal space, they’ll announce their presence with ritualized claw waving. Laidre sought to find out if coconut crabs ever gathered together to interact (beyond mating or eating each other). The scientist tethered coconut crabs to one spot and watched to see if any others came to visit. They did not.
9. Coconut crabs carry their developing young under their abdomens.
After coconut crabs mate, females attach their eggs to special appendages and carry them under their abdomens. While the young develop inside the eggs, the females hold onto them, sticking near the edge of the sea so that they can periodically moisten the eggs.
But this care ends when the young are ready to hatch. The females release their hatchlings into the ocean waves. Now the tiny, floating babies must fend for themselves—and only a few will survive to return to land.
10. We need to learn a lot more about coconut crabs.
Coconut crabs are little-studied creatures, and we need to know more about them—not just because they’re incredible and have a lot to tell us about biology, but also because we want to keep them around.
They may be huge and heavily armored, but they can be vulnerable. Coconut crabs take an extremely long time to grow big—they can live more than 40 years—and introduced predators such as rats can harm smaller, younger individuals or those in the process of shedding their exoskeletons (when their bodies are soft). Habitat loss has also caused local declines in some areas. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the coconut crab as data deficient: That is, we don’t know enough about its locations and populations. That’s why we need to study and learn more about these amazing, otherworldly critters.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) knows that robocalls have gotten worse in recent years, and it's finally doing something about it. In June 2019, the FCC voted to give phone carriers the freedom to block spam calls without waiting for customers to opt in. The change is a good first step, but it won't end the robocall scourge completely. For the unwanted calls that sneak past your phone's defenses, the FCC also published a scam glossary on its website, Popular Science reports.
The glossary lists some of the most common (as well as some uncommon) strategies used by criminals, giving you an idea of what to be on the lookout for next time you get a suspicious call. The "Health Insurance Scam," for example, involves callers selling fake health care coverage for a cheap price. There's also the "One Ring Scam," where the scammer will hang up quickly after the first ring without giving you time to answer the call. Their goal is to trick you into calling them back and paying for international call fees.
The glossary includes more general terms that relate to phone scams as well. Spoofing is defined as calls made through fake caller IDs that appear trustworthy, either by matching your home area code or that of a legitimate organization. Slamming happens when a phone company moves you from your existing service provider to theirs without your consent.
Familiarizing yourself with popular scams is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself from falling for fraudulent calls. Another way is to install robocall-blocking apps on your phone. Here are some options to check out.