Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crab Lands in St. Marys Class; South Florida Critter Showed Up near School Entrance after Hurricane Frances

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Crab Lands in St. Marys Class; South Florida Critter Showed Up near School Entrance after Hurricane Frances

Article excerpt

Byline: LIZ HAMPTON, Times-Union correspondent

ST. MARYS -- A blue land crab apparently evacuated Florida and found a new home at St. Marys Elementary School just after Hurricane Frances blew through.

A few days after the storm, Kay McClendon, the wife of the school's principal, Tom McClendon, spotted the blue crab near the front entrance.

Teacher Becci Curry and her gifted fifth-grade students who are now studying oceanography were called out to assess the situation.

The crab was caught with two butterfly nets and now lives in an aquarium filled with dirt, sand, fruits and other foods in Curry's classroom. Curry said the crab eats and buries its food; it has formed a burrow in its new home.

Student Chris Gentry said he had a theory about how this crab they named "Indigo" arrived.

Students researched books and Internet sites and found that the normal range of the blue land crab is Bermuda, the Caribbean, Texas and South Florida. Gentry said he figures the crab attached itself to a boat in Florida. The boat came to St. Marys and the crab was swept by high winds and high seas onto land.

Curry's class consulted the experts. Jon Garbisch, an educational specialist at the University of Georgia Marine Institute on Sapelo Island, said the arrival-by-boat theory has merit.

"They hitch rides on stuff coming up the Intracoastal [Waterway] and survive until winter temps on cold years wipe them out," Garbisch said.

Senior research specialist Ron Kneib, also at the institute, said there have been sightings of the blue land crab as far north as Savannah, with more regular reports from Jacksonville.

Curry's students, and other area scientists, are intrigued.

"It could have hitched a ride on some vegetation, or a coconut, and was pushed north by the storm," said Patrick Geer, commercial fisheries program supervisor for the state Department of Natural Resources. …

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