Hermit crabs are in trouble.
Often recognized by the large shells/homes they carry around on their back, these ocean scavengers are facing a housing crisis.
Ocean acidification, a symptom of climate change and unbridled marine pollution, destroys the cast-off shells of mollusks that hermit crabs usually call home.
With a shell shortage, hermit crabs around the world are being forced to stick their butts into bottles, shotgun shells, and anything else they can find. This is unacceptable to the folks in the MakerBot Community.
The creator of the Thing-O-Matic, a printer that can create 3D objects, MakerBot has rallied its community of hackers, artists and makers to come up with alternative shells for homeless hermit crabs.
Crab habitats, or “crabitats,” have been set up at MakerBot locations in Brooklyn and L.A. MakerBot community members from all over the world will send their best shell designs to the Project Shellter team who will print them and place them in the crabitats to see what the crabs think.
The Thing-O-Matic can print in one of two plastics – ABS (what Lego is made from), and biodegradable PLA plastic. When hermit crabs outgrow the printed shells, they’ll leave them behind for younger crabs to habitat in the future! Which will the crabs like better, PLA or ABS? Will they even accept 3D printed shells as a substitute? The future of the species may depend on the answer to this clever experiment!
Shell designs from the MakerBot community will also be posted on Thingiverse.com, MakerBot’s online community where users can post digital designs and collaborate on open source hardware, and tagged with “SHELLTER.”
Image Credits: MakerBot Blog/Stef Shapira