Well, they’re not.
In appearance, anatomy, habitat, size… literally nothing about them is similar apart from the fact that they are both organic life forms.
BUT…when their place of residence gets too small to house them, they have to move.
I’m referring specifically to leopard cubs here, as the adults don’t need to be hiding in caves and cracks…
As a hermit crab grows it needs to upgrade its housing, necessarily exposing its vulnerable body whilst shifting to a new shell. In the same way, I imagine when leopard cubs start reaching a certain size in which they struggle to squeeze into their den, their mother needs a new site for them.
I’m totally speculating here as there are a combination of factors that will make a leopard move dens (it will ultimately be the female deciding to make the move, not the cubs), but there may be something to be said for the size thing. I can attest to the fact that very young cubs can be squeezed into cracks you never would have thought they would fit into. We have found dens with newborns snugly wedged into the back recesses of a mere gap between rocks; it’s almost like they can compress their bodies.
The advantage of a very narrow den access is that big predators can’t access it. Recent footage of a hyena trying to access the Makomsava female’s previous den was perfect proof of the integrity of a well-chosen den. Camera trap footage of other dens shows similar situations far more regularly than we would want to believe. A young leopard cub’s life is literally a non-stop series of dramatic events that could result in its death. The more trail-cam footage allows us to see and understand what goes on while we aren’t there, the more unbelievable we find it that any cubs survive.
The only surviving cub of the Nanga female, currently territorial north of Marthly.
Having said that, den choice in female leopards can be particularly poor. The Mashaba female’s first den for her new cub (which has sadly been lost) was a terrible choice, at least to our eyes. Although you would have to physically go and look inside it to see the cub, there was not a single retreat for the young leopard should anything dangerous happen along. Less than ideal.
My musings here are based mainly around the Makomsava female. She’s moved dens again, although thankfully (for us) not very far, and the new spot is literally 60 metres from the old one. Exactly why she has moved is anyone’s guess. The literature will say that leopards move dens to avoid a scent-build up, but we’ve known females to use the same spot for almost two months.
Parasites might be a contributing factor to a move; it certainly is in wild dogs and other carnivores that den underground.
But I’m sure the size thing must play a role. Cubs surely outgrow a den. The deepest crack on earth isn’t going to save you from a hyena if you can’t fit into it.
Maybe I’m clutching at straws a little with the hermit crab thing, but hey, one draws comparisons where one must…