Even hermit crabs aren’t immune to swings in their own ecological economies. A global shortage of shells is leaving the entire species short on housing, and the DIY design community over at Makerbot isn’t having it. Stepping in to bring shelter to the shell-less, Makerbot has launched Project Shellter along with artist in residence Miles Lightwood to crowdsource new shell designs that can be fabricated on Makerbot’s 3-D printers.

Hermit crabs, as many a child could tell you, are not born with shells on their backs. They have to scavenge for suitable housing, which they usually find in a shell. But the current shell shortage has them turning to all kinds of alternatives that are less than ideal. Per Bre Pettis over on the Makerbot blog: “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 not acceptable. As a community, we can reach out to this vulnerable species and offer our digital design skills and 3D printing capabilities and give hermit crabs another option: 3D printed shells.”

Pettis and company have set up a “crabitat” in its Brooklyn HQ, and Lightwood is setting up a West Coast crabitat in Los Angeles. Right now, no one is sure if crabs will take to a 3-D printed shell, or what kinds of materials they might find suitable for a fabricated shell. By turning to the community, Makerbot hopes to come up with a range of shell designs to try out in the crabitats. If they find one that fits, Makerbots everywhere could be turned to the task of creating housing for the world’s population of hermit crab have-nots.

If you’ve got a Makerbot, or just some spare time and some design skills, you can participate by uploading your designs to Thingiverse.

[Makerbot via Shareable]