Marathon for Life

The Australian Christmas Island Marathon will be held annually - the most popular and the most dangerous in the world.
Participants: 65 million red land crabs. Purpose: spawning in coastal waters.
Danger on the road: traffic, enemies heat. The race, which pushes participants to the records worthy of admiration.

Over 22 kilometers of highway surrounded by barriers here and there placed billboards with warnings to drivers, even fenced private swimming pools and garden ponds. Marathon can begin. The most popular in the world. The most ancient. And the most dangerous. On an island that is a little bit more of the city of Vladimir, or 8 times less than in Moscow - the Australian Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean to the start out of 65 million runners. Portraits of athletes adorned postage stamps and stamps, T-shirts, backpacks, cups: wide body in red shiny tights chitin, attentive multifaceted eyes, two strong claws, eight slender legs.

"They always start with the beginning of the rainy season," - says zoopsychologists Steve Morris of the University of Bristol. For 20 years, he never misses a marathon. Eight kilometers from the island's interior to the coast - is the distance of the race. Nowhere in the world crabs do not overcome such distances. An interesting feature: the start of a period not defined in advance, but the time of arrival to the finish. The last stage - spawning females in the sea - is completed in strict accordance with the lunar calendar, just before the new moon, that is, at a time when the difference between the tides is minimal and, consequently, wave-cut zone is less dangerous. Additional subjects: extreme bearing down vertical obstacles, martial arts, dig burrows, mating and - exclusively for the ladies - lifting weights: during marathon runners carry with them up to 100 thousand eggs each. "It is as if a man had 35 kilometers to drag five-kilogram sack of potatoes" - says Morris.

While international observers competitions are still examining the sky for the first clouds - forest soil suddenly begins to move. Withered foliage begins to whisper, though no breeze in the air. Under the leaves stir fuzz covered legs, strong claws to help get out of burrows outside - the back of their inhabitants glisten in the morning sun. And so begins a soft, smooth rustling - as if finally started to rain. So thousands of sound legs and claws, hurrying across the carpet of leaves. Last night, the humidity rose to 94%. That should be enough, because runners can smell if they do not start now, then soon as possible to spawn not ripen, and the program will have to be postponed for a month. For greater speed athletes crabs move his wide body sideways. In addition, each of the ten limbs, including a pair of pincers, thanks to its seven segments can move in all directions. So on the plains marathon runners reach speeds of up to six meters per minute, but the cliffs they are not a barrier. Shells of crabs - a miracle of technology: they do not need jousting took - they cleaned themselves in the eyes adapted to this recess.

Become close external skeletons are reset and valuable substances from which they are made, are utilized: calcium-rich chitin shells included in the diet of its recent owners. Courageous single for a few hours get in close flocks, in which all sides flock to the coast, overcoming difficult terrain - steep rocks, roots and blades of razor-sharp fragments of limestone. Expert on crab marathons Steve Morris shows that each year the group sent to shore crabs on the same way - not necessarily the shortest, but surprisingly straightforward. As they thus oriented - this may even Morris unless guess. Perhaps they repeat the path along which the first time at the end of the larval stage emerged from the sea to the land. Another question that he asks himself: how much they still have to go? In the years when spawning more to a lot of time, males loitering slicing Forests lap of honor. Because on Christmas Island, no one wants to be the target ahead of time. But this time, they are in a hurry: eight days later the time comes to mating. Therefore eat on the go, saving time and effort.


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