Christmas Island Zoology | The Institute for Creation Research

Christmas Island Zoology

Christmas Island belongs to an idyllic group of islands in the northeast Indian Ocean. The animal biology (zoology) of this island is bountiful. Its vertebrates include birds and a very few mammals, and its invertebrates include14 species of land crabs and other arthropods such as the pesky and increasingly common yellow crazy ant. About two-thirds of this Scottie dog-shape island is a protected Australian national park.

When it comes to animals, Christmas Island has an abundance of birds! A wide variety of native and non-native birds of all sizes and shapes—including petrels, tropicbirds, cormorants, kingfishers, egrets, coots, terns, doves, falcons, stilts, sandpipers and many more—inhabit this naturalist’s wonderland. Christmas Island and the islands around it are important breeding places for many seabirds.

One of the more fascinating birds is the Christmas Island frigatebird—an aerial creature that prefers to get its meals on-the-wing by swooping down to the water or beach for a meal or even stealing food in-flight from a fellow bird. This beautiful bird is all-black with a white patch and has a characteristic forked tail. It is endemic to Christmas Island and does not swim or walk, but is content to majestically ride air currents and updrafts.

Most ornithologists agree that one of the most stunning birds in the world is the white-tailed tropicbird, unique to and ubiquitous on Christmas Island. It nests on the ground and has a golden tint to its otherwise white plumage. The characteristic silhouette of the golden bosunbird is seen on the flag of Christmas Island Territory.

Perhaps the most popular animal of these islands is the harmless 100 million-strong Christmas Island red crab (Gecarcoidea natalis). Online video clips of these legendary creatures show them risking their lives to migrate to the ocean and back again, with the males leading the way. They allow nothing to stop them as they march across roads and fields, through homes, and even over giggling school children. They spend most of their time hidden in the forest canopy, except during the rainy season when they head to the sea to spawn. At high tide, the females release eggs that immediately hatch as tiny larvae that grow and mature. Meanwhile, the adults climb up the Christmas Island cliffs and disappear into the forest until the next rainy season.

There are also huge, bluish robber crabs, or coconut crabs, that literally hang on the sides of trees or trash cans. They are a type of hermit crab and may be seen peeling the husks off coconuts or battling each other on the beach with their formidable claws. Coconut crabs are the largest land crabs on earth and span almost three feet across. These are smart invertebrates and have been seen dropping coconuts from a tree—and then dropping after them from over 12 feet high to eat the broken coconut. Sadly, their numbers are dwindling.

Christmas Island has had its share of animal extinction, from bats to rats. The islanders were once determined to retain five native mammals, but today only one is known to survive. The Christmas Island Pipistrelle, a four-gram microbat, is most likely extinct, although it numbered in the thousands just 20 years ago. Maclear's rat and the Bulldog rat have both become extinct, probably due to a blood-borne parasite. The same goes for the Christmas Island Musk-shrew that has been unseen since the mid-1980s. But in spite of the diminishing animal life, Christmas Island still provides a lush example of our Creator’s unique, diverse, and glorious creation.

* Mr. Sherwin is Research Associate, Senior Lecturer, and Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Sherwin, F. 2012. Christmas Island Zoology. Acts & Facts. 41 (12): 16.

The Latest
NEWS
Supersaurus-Sized Dinosaur No Match for the Flood
Scientists are still trying to out-do each another by finding the biggest dinosaur. Brian Curtice, from the Arizona Museum of Natural History, recently...

NEWS
Inside December 2021 Acts & Facts
How can we understand Christ’s role as our mediator from a scientific perspective? Why was ICR's first dinosaur excavation significant for...

APOLOGETICS
Christ’s Providence Is Clearly Seen in Bird Migrations
Just as monkeys can’t accidently type Shakespeare texts, birds can’t migrate by evolutionary luck, despite imagined eons of time for “lucky”...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Snowflakes
by Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

ACTS & FACTS
The Gift of God Himself
Each Christmas we remember how deeply God loves us. His wondrous plan of salvation—first set in motion in the Garden of Eden—was miraculously...

ACTS & FACTS
Early Land Plant Evolution?
In a recent Science article, two evolutionists consider land plants (embryophytes) to have evolved from stoneworts (charophyte algae).1 A...

ACTS & FACTS
Biblical Creation and Intellectual Foolishness
In a recent interview discussing his new book In Quest of the Historical Adam, philosopher and Christian apologist William Lane Craig acknowledged his...

ACTS & FACTS
Are Birds “Cousins” to Reptiles?
Are today’s birds genealogical “cousins” to today’s reptiles due to a shared evolutionary ancestry? No. However, birds and...

ACTS & FACTS
Haleakala National Park: One of Many Young-Looking Volcanoes
You can start the day atop the cold peak of Mt. Haleakala and end it on a warm beach on Maui. The sprawling volcanic mountain rises 10,000 feet above...

ACTS & FACTS
The Oceans Point to a Young Earth
by Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D., and Tim Clarey, Ph.D.* Over 70% of Earth's surface is covered by water, most of which is marine and contained in...