- May 5, 2022
The ghost crab is perhaps one of the most interesting and unusual creatures on the beach. These crabs are easily identified by their pale coloring and translucent shell, which makes them almost invisible against the sand. What makes these crabs really interesting, however, is their behavior. Ghost crabs are known for being very playful and active, and they are always exploring their surroundings. They are also quite fearless, and will approach people if they feel like it. If you’re lucky enough to see a ghost crab on the beach, make sure to take a close look at its unique personality!
Ghost Crab Description
Ghost crabs are a type of crab that is found on beaches around the world. They get their name from their ability to blend in with the sand , making them very hard to see. Ghost crabs are nocturnal creatures and spend most of their time in burrows that they dig in the sand. These burrows can be up to 3 feet deep and 6 feet wide . During the day, ghost crabs will close the entrance to their burrow with sand to stay cool and avoid predators. Ghost crabs are opportunistic eaters and will eat just about anything they can find, including insects , small animals, and even other crabs. Ghost crabs are also known for their ability to run very fast. Ghost crabs are interesting creatures that are fun to watch and learn about.
Ghost Crab Habitat
Ghost crabs are a type of crab that lives in the sand on beaches . They get their name from their ability to blend in with the sand and from their nocturnal habits. Ghost crabs are not very social and live alone in burrows that they dig themselves. The Ghost Crab’s diet consists mostly of small invertebrates that live on the beach, such as bugs and worms. Ghost crabs also like to eat vegetables and sometimes other crabs. Ghost crabs are important to the ecosystem because they help to keep the beach clean by eating dead animals and plants. Ghost crabs are also an important food source for other animals, such as birds . Ghost crabs are threatened by habitat loss due to coastal development, pollution, and climate change.
Ghost Crab Diet
Ghost crabs are opportunistic feeders and will consume a variety of food items. The diet of ghost crabs is primarily determined by what is available in their local environment. Ghost crabs have been known to eat small mammals , reptiles , birds , carrion , and even other Ghost crabs . Ghost crabs will also scavenge for food items such as seaweed , clams , and dead fish . In addition to their scavenging activities, Ghost crabs are also able to capture live prey . Live prey items that have been identified in the diet of Ghost crabs include small insects, snails, and crabs. Overall, the Ghost crab diet is quite variable and dependent on what is available in their local environment.
Ghost Crab Size
Ghost crabs are small crabs that range in size from about 2 to 3 inches long . They are named for their pale, translucent shell , which makes them look like ghosts. Ghost crabs are found on beaches around the world, where they burrow into the sand to make their home. They are scavengers and will eat just about anything they can find, including dead fish, seaweed, and even other ghost crabs. Ghost crabs are also known for their agility and speed. They can run up to 9 miles per hour, making them one of the fastest animals on the beach. When they feel threatened, they will sometimes play dead to avoid being eaten by predators. Ghost crabs are fascinating creatures that play an important role on the beach ecosystem.
Ghost Crab Lifespan
Ghost crabs are one of the most interesting creatures on the beach. These nocturnal animals are well known for their unique appearance, as well as their fleet feet. Ghost crabs are also relatively short-lived creatures , with most individuals only living for 2-3 years . Despite their relatively short lifespan, ghost crabs play an important role in the ecosystem of the beach. Ghost crabs are opportunistic eaters, and their diet helps to keep the population of other animals in check. In addition, ghost crabs help to Aerate the sand and keep the beach clean. As a result, Ghost crabs play an important role in the health of the beach ecosystem despite their short lifespan.
Ghost Crab Behavior
Ghost Crabs are unique creatures, known for their nocturnal habits and their ability to burrow quickly into the sand. These crustaceans are also highly adaptable , able to live in a variety of habitats ranging from the intertidal zone to the open ocean. Ghost Crabs are opportunistic feeders, and will scavenge for food as well as hunt live prey. They are also known to be aggressive , and will defend their territory from other Ghost Crabs. Ghost Crab behavior is therefore complex and fascinating, making them a popular subject of study for scientists.
Ghost Crab Speed
Ghost crabs are among the fastest animals on the planet, reaching speeds of up to 25 miles per hour . They are able to achieve these high speeds thanks to their long legs and large claws, which they use to propel themselves forward. Ghost crabs are also incredibly agile, able to change direction quickly and easily. This makes them difficult to catch, even for the swiftest predators. Ghost crabs are native to tropical and subtropical regions, where they live on beaches and in sand dunes. They are nocturnal creatures, spending the day buried in the sand and emerging at night to hunt for food. Ghost crabs are omnivorous, eating everything from other crustaceans to plants and small mammals. These fascinating creatures are a joy to watch, whether they’re scurrying along the beach or playing hide-and-seek in the sand dunes.
Ghost Crab Hunting
Ghost crabs are a type of crab that is found in tropical and subtropical climates. They get their name from their ability to change their color to match their surroundings, making them difficult to spot. Ghost crabs are excellent scavengers and can often be found near the shoreline, searching for food. Ghost crab hunting is a popular activity in many coastal areas , as they are considered to be a delicacy. The best time to hunt for ghost crabs is at night, when they are most active. Ghost crabs can be caught using baited traps or by netting them as they scurry along the beach. Once caught, they can be cooked and eaten whole. Ghost crab hunting is a fun and challenging way to enjoy the outdoors and learn about these fascinating creatures.
Frequently Asked Question
What is the scientific name for a Ghost Crab?
What happens when you get pinched by a ghost crab, do ghost crabs growl using teeth in their stomachs, how do ghost crabs digest food.
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Things You Didn’t Know About Ghost Crabs
Maybe you’ve lived on the coast your whole life, or perhaps you just visit a few times a year. Either way, you’ve probably seen little white crabs scooting across the sand at night.
The Ocypode Quadrata, also known as the Ghost Crab, is found in tropical and subtropical climates around the world. No stranger to Florida’s Gulf Coast, the creature is nocturnal, although they sometimes make daytime appearances as well.
Ghost Crabs are generally pale in color, but they have the ability to change color to blend in with their surroundings.
Ghost Crabs have a square body that can grow up to three inches in size. They have four pairs of legs, one pair of claws and stalked eyes that can swivel 360 degrees. Ghost Crabs make a unique bubbling sound by hitting their claws on the ground and rubbing their legs together. Their scientific name, Ocypode means “fast feet,” as they’re often seen darting sideways at up to 10 miles per hour.
While the Ghost Crab breathes oxygen, they must also maintain plenty of moisture in their gills. They do this by acquiring water at the edge of the gulf or by getting moisture from damp sand. Ghost Crabs feed on sea turtle hatchlings, turtle eggs, clams, insects, and other crabs.
Ghost Crabs live in tiny burrows in the sand, preferring a solitary life with only one crab per burrow.
Dug at a 45-degree angle, these burrows may be up to four feet deep. They create the angled entrances so that the onshore breeze can blow into them for ventilation. The habitats can also easily be closed off during the heat of the day to keep the crabs cool.
Of course, while it’s part of many childhood rituals to chase Sand Crabs at night (rarely actually catching them, of course), please use the opportunity to teach children about these special creatures, and to always respect and value life.
Please also remember to always use turtle-safe flashlights when on the beach at night! Our local sea turtles need your help.
Written by Mitch Jaugstetter with contributions from Laurie Reichenbach of the Volunteer Beach Ambassadors
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Ghost Crabs and Ghost Crabbing
We'd like to thank Captain Johnny's Dolphin Tours for supporting our ghost crabbing article. Visitors of all ages enjoy this two hour cruise in the protected waters of the Roanoke Sound. Learn about bottlenose dolphins, then see them in person with a 98% success rate. Several tour times are available Monday thru Friday, May to October. Morning tours, sunset cruises and private tours are available. Visit their site here or call 252-473-1475 for more information.
Interested in the local Outer Banks nightlife? Head to the beach. One of the most popular after-dark activities on the OBX beaches is ghost crab hunting, and all a prospective OBX Hunter needs to participate is a flashlight and a love of the great outdoors.
Ghost crabs are small, almost iridescent critters that call the shorelines of the Outer Banks from the ocean wash to the high tide line home, and at night, they come out in droves combing the beaches for a late dinner. Vacationers who want to get up-close-and-personal with the local wildlife will find no easier route than to hop over to the oceanfront after the sun sets, turn on the flashlight, and watch the local ghost crab population scatter.
Aptly named due to their inherent nocturnal habits, ghost crabs are a little-known but well-loved local attraction that every vacationer has the opportunity to meet and greet. On your next vacation, take a nocturnal expedition of your own and introduce yourself to these skittish but abundant local natives.
About the Outer Banks Ghost Crabs
There are technically over 20 species of ghost crabs worldwide, although the variety you'll spot most along the Outer Banks is the Atlantic Ghost Crab, which shares many characteristics with the fiddler crab, also found all along the coastal North Carolina area along muddy soundside areas or hidden next to salty canals.
Ghost crabs are on average about 2" wide across, (although avid ghost crab hunters have been known to find a few that are 4" wide or more), feature long legs, and eyes that are perched on stalks and can rotate a full 360 degrees. Their name derives from their pale, sandy color, which makes them almost invisible against the shoreline until they start moving.
Ghost crabs essentially live directly on the beach, burrowing deep into the sand for protection from the blazing sun as well as passing predators. These burrows will only be a couple inches wide on the surface, and beach passer-bys may notice these small, half-dollar sized holes in the sand, but underneath the surface level, these intricate tracks can run up to 4' ft. deep, not including any outlying branches, allowing a network of protection from the elements. Despite being coastal North Carolina residents, ghost crabs are not big fans of the sunshine, and will spend most of their beach days tucked well inside their holes, or doing a bit of Summer cleaning" by popping out on occasion to remove any excess sand or debris.
Ghost crabs are notoriously shy, and with 360 degree vision, are very sensitive to any action that occurs around them. This is why many daytime beach goers will never encounter them, unless they are perfectly still, either taking a beachside nap, or lost in a good book. In these cases, a ghost crab may break out of an otherwise-unnoticeable hole in the sand to deposit some of the remnants of their cleaning efforts.
The ghost crab really stakes a beach claim at night, when the majority of the daily beach visitors have disappeared and the ghost crabs can enjoy the shoreline all to themselves. This is when the ghost crabs feed, foraging on coquina clams, mole or "sand crabs," or any other recently deceased small sea critter that washes up, and this is also when it seeks a mate.
Like most species, mating for ghost crabs is a competition, with the strongest male coming out the victor. Ghost crabs have a ritualized competition for a female ghost crab's affections, which involves a seemingly choreographed fight between two males, raising both their claws as well as their bodies in intimidating poses until one sinks into a submissive posture and gives in. If this doesn't happen right away, a "pushing fight" ensues until one crab finally withdrawals. The majority of this action, as well as the intensive scavenger hunt for the day's meals, always happen at night.
As for breeding, the female ghost crab generally lays her eggs directly in the ocean wash, and afterwards, the abandoned larvae drift along the water for up to six weeks until they hatch and make their way towards the shoreline. This is a dangerous process, and a number of eggs fall prey to passing fish, or rough surf, before ever making it to the shoreline.
Once on the beach, however, ghost crabs carve out a happy life along the shoreline. Completely dependent on the saltwater beaches and the daily deposits that wash up with the surf, the Outer Banks ghost crabs have plenty to brag about, with miles of open beaches and unpopulated shorelines to comb for food, friends, and shelter.
Hunting Ghost Crabs on the Outer Banks
Ghost crab hunting has become a very popular pastime in recent years, as it allows the entire family to have an excuse to stay out a little late and enjoy a little more beach time outside of the daylight hours. In addition, it's a completely free activity that everyone in the family can get on board with, especially the youngest members of the group, as the excitement of spotting a crab generally elicits a lot of squeals and shrieks along the way. Ghost crabs are essentially harmless, and will very quickly shy away from humans. At the very worst, a ghost crab hunter may suffer a toe or hand nibble if they get too close, (a bite that will barely break the skin), and at best, a family of ghost crab hunters will get some incredible pictures and some equally incredible vacation memories along the way.
Ghost crab hunters essentially only need two things, a quiet Outer Banks night and a flashlight, to have a successful "hunt." However, there are a few other tips and tricks to keep in mind to ensure not only a successful ghost crab hunt, but one that's filled with endless "catches."
- First and foremost, "hunters" are reminded to not hurt the crabs. This is strictly a chasing activity.
- If possible, wear darker clothing and tread as quietly as possible, Ghost crabs are very observant and relay on their sense of something being out of place to protect them from any possible predators. With this in mind, keep your flashlight light well out in front of you to find ghost crabs before you've even remotely intruded on their area.
- Once a ghost crab is captured in a flashlight beam, it will stand motionless for a moment while it collects its bearings. This is an ideal time to take a few photos and / or get an up-close look at the critter before it scurries away.
- Whatever you do, don't attempt to poke, prod, or pick up a ghost crab. Although clearly not fatal, a ghost crab pinch can still be a little painful, and it's best to take a picture, either on camera or via a mental recollection, and allow the ghost crab to be on its way.
- The best time to find ghost crabs is during the prime summer months, from late May until early September, when they are out on patrol in full force. Stick close to the shoreline, in between the low tide and high tide lines for the best hunting grounds, and keep an eye out for small holes that range from the circumference of a nickel to the circumference of half dollar. Chances are if you spot these little holes, there's a ghost crab or two nearby.
- When it comes to the best beaches to find ghost crabs, the quieter and more secluded the better. Beaches with little night traffic, including pedestrians, beach bonfires, or vehicular traffic, are the best ghost crab hunting grounds. Luckily, on the Outer Banks, these beaches are in abundance, and generally all a vacationer has to do is head to the nearest beach pathway to start their hunting expedition.
Hunting for ghost crabs is arguably one of the most popular Outer Banks local pastimes. Easy to do, completely free of charge, and enjoyable for family members of all ages, a ghost crab hunt can turn into some incredible wildlife spottings and photos in the best of circumstances, and a quietly pleasant wander down the beach under the stars during the worst circumstances.
On your next Outer Banks vacation, make it a point to join in the fun. Simply grab a flashlight, throw on the flip-flops and head to the beach. Regardless of whether you spot a crab skittering by or not, you're sure to find that the cool ocean breezes and the vast canopy of stars is a treasure worth discovering all its own.
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Events & Family Fun
- Pumpkin Patch Saturdays October 14th, 2023 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
- Fall Open House at the CWHF Farm - Corolla Wild Horse Fund October 14th, 2023 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM
- The NC VIP Fishing Tournament October 16th, 2023 - October 18th, 2023
Outer Banks Seafood Festival
The Outer Banks Seafood Festival is rapidly becoming one of the highlights of the fall season, with plenty of fresh seafood, storytelling, and activities to keep everyone fully entertained. This all-day event takes place at the waterfront Event Site in Nags Head, and is a family-friendly outing that will make anyone fall in love with this staple of the Outer Banks’ culinary cuisine.
Offering full lunch and dinner menus with American and seafood fare and cocktails. Voted best deck dining on the beach. Relaxed and family friendly atmosphere. The spectacular view from Rundown Café’s newly renovated upstairs Hula bar deck is unrivaled on the beach. The restaurant offers seating on the deck, as well as more intimate seating inside either the upstairs bar or more family oriented downstairs dining room.
Outer Banks Nature Spots
With 150 miles of pristine coastline, and some of the East Coast's largest swaths of undisturbed maritime forest, the Outer Banks is a popular destination for nature lovers. As an important spot on America's "Flyway," which is the route that migrating birds take on their northern and southern treks across the country, the Outer Banks is the temporary home to hundreds of species of birds. Combine this with the number of deer, foxes, waterfowl, fish, turtles, and even alligators, and it's clear that the Outer Banks is truly a wild vacation destination.
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Tips for Ghost Crab Hunting along the Atlantic Coast
Maryland , North Carolina , Virginia / July 10, 2014 by Katie / 15 Comments This article may contain sponsored content or affiliate links.
Ready for some excited screams and shouts from your kids on vacation? Spend an evening ghost crab hunting for an experience you will never forget. A trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina would not be complete for my family without a late-night trip to the beach to hunt ghost crabs.
What are Ghost Crabs?
Atlantic ghost crabs are iridescent, sand-colored crabs that can be found on quiet beaches along the Atlantic coast. Generally around 2-inches in diameter, these small crabs are relatively harmless.
Related: 10 Fun Things to Do in the Outer Banks
Where can I find Ghost Crabs?
Reportedly found as far north as Bald Head, Rhode Island, and as a far south as Florida, ghost crabs are abundant along the Outer Banks and other East Coast beaches. Shy creatures, ghost crabs spend most of the day burrowed in the sand but come out in droves at night.
How to hunt Ghost Crabs
If your family is up for an adventure, all you need to hunt ghost crabs is a flashlight, a bucket , and a little courage. My children love wearing headlamp flashlights so their hands are free to catch the ghost crabs.
Head to the beach as soon as it gets dark. Shine your flashlight and watch them scamper across the sand. When a ghost crab is caught in a flashlight beam, they generally freeze for a few seconds before scampering away. This is a great time to snap a picture or surround the crab if the kids want to try catching one.
My children have discovered that the best way to catch a ghost crab is to toss a little sand on it, which helps it feel safe and reduces its likelihood of running off. Approach from behind the crab to avoid the pincers, and gently press your finger on the back of the crabs shell. Once you have it securely trapped in the sand, you can pick it up by the shell and place it in a large bucket.
If you do decide to catch ghost crabs, please make sure to enjoy them for a few minutes and then release them back to their natural habitat. Once we end up with a bucket of ghost crabs, our family loves to play “chicken” by standing in a circle and dumping the ghost crabs in the middle of everyone's feet and watching them scamper off.
If your family would like to catch ghost crabs without touching them, consider this inventive product called the ILLUMINET , which is a flashlight and net all wrapped up into one.
Hunting ghost crabs is a unique, memorable experience sure to bring squeals of delight (or terror, in the case of my three-year-old) and memories that last a lifetime.
How else can we help?
Packing List: Don't forget to bring batteries for your flashlights and headlamps and a bucket to collect the crabs!
Need a rental car? It's the best way to get around the Outer Banks. Find the best rates from dozens of agencies at RentalCars.com .
Need a place to stay? Renting a beach house is the best way to vacation at the Outer Banks. Check out my post 10 tips for finding vacation rentals for my tried and true methods for booking a great vacation home or condo.
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July 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm
I’m pretty sure my kids would love this!
July 12, 2014 at 9:52 am
We loved doing this!!
July 13, 2014 at 8:19 pm
my favorite part is sneaking up behind the moms and kicking a little sand at their heels – the shrieks are well worth it 🙂
June 30, 2017 at 4:07 pm
I can tell you for a fact that they are as far north As Old Orchard Beach Maine where I saw them last year on this date
July 3, 2017 at 9:24 am
That’s great! Sounds like family fun up and down the Atlantic coast. Thanks for the tip!
October 18, 2019 at 12:41 am
Can i eat a ghost crab?
October 21, 2019 at 8:51 am
That’s a good question! We have never eaten ghost crabs. After a quick search on this topic, it sounds like ghost crabs are edible, but most people won’t want to. They don’t have much meat.
July 30, 2020 at 12:05 pm
Families are chasing scared living things? Is this a cruel joke? I live near the beaches and hope respect towards wildlife is encouraged.
July 31, 2020 at 3:30 am
Such a fun activity. We use red lights so that we don’t disturb sea turtles. The red lights also make for brighter star gazing. Amazing memories for our kids!
August 3, 2020 at 3:32 pm
Red lights are a great idea. Thanks for the tip!
October 25, 2020 at 12:38 pm
I don’t find that helpful because I already know how to do it but I just looked it up for fun and I catch way bigger ones than the ones in the pictures so yeah I catch them by myself without any help so bye
October 28, 2020 at 11:51 am
Sounds like you’re an expert. Any tips for first timers?
February 7, 2023 at 7:44 pm
Can I find them in Jan/Feb in Gulf Shores? What does the temperature have to be
February 13, 2023 at 4:48 pm
That’s a good question! I did a little “digging” on ghost crabs and learned that they can hibernate for up to six weeks at a time in cold weather. So it may be possible to see them during the winter, but much less likely than in the summer.
To learn more about ghost crabs, my source was the Padre Island National Seashore website: https://www.nps.gov/pais/learn/nature/ghost_crab.htm
May 20, 2023 at 7:22 pm
I’m reading how taking this poor creatures from their habitat is “ such a family fun thing to do together” can we please just respect nature and watch it be without intruding or killing them ???
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- Pets and Animals
How to Care for Ghost Crabs
Last Updated: April 19, 2020 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS . Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years. There are 9 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 92% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 97,308 times.
Ghost crabs can be great pets. They are fun to watch as they dart around and dig their burrows in the sand. To care for ghost crabs you will need a large tank with plenty of deep sand for them to dig in. You will need to provide a varied diet, constant access to saltwater, and make sure they have a stimulating environment.
Providing a Good Environment
- A glass aquarium is the best option for your container, but you can use a cheaper plastic container if necessary.
- Make sure that the container you use is strong enough to hold wet sand, which can get heavy.  X Research source
- It should also have a lid that fits tightly to stop the crabs from getting out. It should let in air while keeping in the moisture.  X Research source
- You can buy “crab sand” at your local pet store, but it will generally be quite expensive.
- A cheaper option is to buy clean play sand from a hardware store. As long as the sand has not been contaminated it should be fine for your crab. Check for any tears in the bag, discolouration, smells or leaks before you buy.
- You can also use coconut fibre substrate, or use a combination of this with some clean play sand.  X Research source
- Provide a sloped area of sand to help with burrowing.  X Research source
- Avoid putting in any resinous (evergreen) wood into the tank. Cedar and pine can irritate crabs.  X Research source
- A humid environment will help them keep their gills moist and help them breathe.  X Research source
- Dehydration can have a serious effect on the health and vitality of your crabs.
Caring For Your Crabs
- You should ensure you have a dish of saltwater in the tank that you change at least every two weeks.
- Create saltwater by mixing two and a half teaspoons of sea or aquarium salt with a gallon of water to reach a gravity reading of around 1.01-1.08.
- Be sure you leave the water to sit overnight so that the chlorine and chloramines dissipate before you place it in the tank.  X Research source
- Make sure the dish is easy for your crabs to get in and out of.
- You crab can also get moisture from wet sand.  X Research source
- Provide a variety of vegetables, fruit, fish and meat to your crabs and see which foods they like.
- Crabs really enjoy a variety of food, so try different natural foods and have not been treated with any pesticides or chemicals.  X Research source
- Avoid too much repetition in your crab’s diet and pay attention to what food he likes the most.  X Research source
- You can also buy prepared crab food from your pet store as a reliable and easy option.
- Sift the sand more often the more crabs you have.
- With one crab, every three weeks is fine. With four, every week. With six or more, it's good to sift every other day.  X Research source
You might also like.
- ↑ http://www.animalspot.net/ghost-crab-sand-crab.html
- ↑ http://www.hermit-crabs.com/care.html
- ↑ https://www.vetbabble.com/small-pets/hermit-crabs/
- ↑ http://www.2ndchance.info/fiddler.htm
- ↑ https://www.petco.com/shop/PetcoContentDisplayView?storeId=10151&catalogId=10051&langId=-1&path=/content/petco/PetcoStore/en_US/pet-services/resource-center/caresheets/hermit-crab-care-sheet.html
- ↑ http://www.mitchellspublications.com/guides/shells/articles/0057/
- ↑ https://sta.uwi.edu/fst/lifesciences/documents/Ocypode_quadrata.pdf
- ↑ http://www.hermit-crabs.com/food.html
About This Article
To care for ghost crabs, fill a glass aquarium tank that's at least 20 gallons in size with enough sand for your crabs to burrow and dig in. You should also provide your crabs with places to hide and things to climb on, which you can do by adding a few clean shells, plastic plants, or bits of driftwood to their tank. Since dehydration can have a serious effect on a crab's health, make sure to always provide your crabs with a dish of salt water and keep their tank at 70% humidity, which will help them breathe and keep their gills moist. During feeding time, offer your ghost crabs a variety of foods, like vegetables, fruit, fish, and meat, to see which they prefer. For more tips from our Veterinary co-author, including how to make salt water for your ghost crabs at home, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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Atlantic Ghost Crab Ocypode quadrata
Also known as the sand crab, the Atlantic ghost crab is a sand-colored crustacean with a distinct pair of white claws. Ghost crabs are active on coastal beaches in the Chesapeake Bay region from spring through autumn.
The Atlantic ghost crab has a square-shaped, semi-translucent shell that can measure up to three inches; males are generally larger than females. These crabs are able to change their coloring to match their surroundings, making them less vulnerable to predators.
Young ghost crabs are much darker than adults, with shells colored a mottled gray and brown. These crabs have four pairs of walking legs and one pair of white claws, and their large, club-shaped eyestalks can rotate 360 degrees.
Ghost crabs are omnivorous, feeding on insects, filter-feeders (like clams and mole crabs) and the eggs and hatchlings of loggerhead turtles. They will also scavenge for vegetation and detritus.
Common predators include raccoons, shorebirds and gulls. Ghost crabs fend off predators by darting into their burrows or flattening their bodies just under the surface of the sand.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Mating can occur throughout the year, and often takes place in or near the burrow of a male. Crab burrows can be up to four feet deep, and are often found hundreds of feet from the water's edge. Younger ghost crabs burrow close to the water, while older ghost crabs burrow higher up on the beach.
While mating, males release a fluid with their sperm that will harden and prevent rival sperm from reaching the female's ova. Females carry developing eggs under their bodies before releasing them into the water, where larvae will develop. The average life span of a ghost crab is three years.
Did You Know?
- The Latin name Ocypode means "swift-footed."
- Ghost crabs do not have to return to the water to wet their gills; instead, they are able to use fine hairs located on the base of their legs to wick up water from damp sand.
- Ghost crabs can create three sounds: striking the ground with their claws, rubbing their legs together or making a bubbling sound.
- More terrestrial than any other crab in the Chesapeake Bay, ghost crabs enter the water only to moisten their gills and develop eggs. Rather than enter the water completely, ghost crabs prefer to brace themselves on the sand and allow incoming waves to wash over their bodies.
Sources and Additional Information
- Life in the Chesapeake Bay by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson
- Atlantic Ghost Crab – South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
- Ocypode quadrata: Atlantic ghost crab – University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
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Ocypode quadrata Atlantic ghost crab
The range of Ocypode quadrata extends from Block Island, Rhode Island to Santa Catarina, Brazil. It has also been found in Bermuda, and larvae have been found as far north as Woods Hole, MA, however no adults have been found at this latitude. Their basic range is 40 degrees N to 30 degrees S on the eastern coasts of North and South America. ( Fisher and Tevesz, 1979 ; Knott, 2010 )
- Biogeographic Regions
Ghost crabs inhabit tropical and subtropical areas and can be found on both oceanic and more protected estuarine beaches. They are found on the supralittoral zone (the area above the spring high tide line) of sand beaches, from the water line up to the dunes. ( Branco, et al., 2010 ; Fisher and Tevesz, 1979 ; da Rosa and Borzone, 2008 )
- Habitat Regions
- saltwater or marine
- Aquatic Biomes
- Other Habitat Features
- intertidal or littoral
- Range elevation 0 to 3.05 m 0.00 to 10.01 ft
- Average elevation 2 m 6.56 ft
Ocypode quadrata is small, having a carapace length of about 5 cm (2 inches) at maturity. They are either straw-colored or grayish-white. They have a quadrate carapace, large club-shaped eyestalks, unequal chelipeds (claws) and long walking legs. Males are generally larger than females. ( Fisher and Tevesz, 1979 )
- Other Physical Features
- bilateral symmetry
- Sexual Dimorphism
- male larger
- Average length 50 mm 1.97 in
After hatching from an egg, Ocypode quadrata has five zoea stages and one megalopa stage. The megalopa stage requires at least 35 days for development. The larvae develop in saline water. The megalopa stage of Ocypode quadrata is one of the largest of the brachyuran crabs. Metamorphosis into the first crab stage takes place at the surf-beach interface. ( Diaz and Costlow, 1972 ; McDermott, 2009 )
- Development - Life Cycle
Mating can occur throughout the year. Unlike other crab species, ghost crabs can mate even when the female’s integument is hard, which means that they can mate anytime after sexual maturation. This is an adaptation to terrestrial life. Mating occurs while both the male and the female have a hard shell. Usually mating will occur somewhere in or near the burrow of the male. Often copulatory plugs are found in ghost crabs; the male will release a seminal fluid along with his sperm that will become hard and prevent rival sperm from reaching the female’s ova. (; Burggren, 1988 ; Rothschild, 2004 )
- Mating System
In the Carolinas, ghost crabs spawn from April through July. Females will mature and ovulate in April and again in August. Females reach sexual maturity when their carapace is larger than 25 mm. Males reach sexual maturity when their carapace is larger than 24 mm. This usually occurs when they are about a year old. ( Haley, 1969 ; Haley, 1972 ; Hobbs, et al., 2008 ; Portell, et al., 2003 ; Rothschild, 2004 )
- Key Reproductive Features
- year-round breeding
- Breeding season Mating occurs throughout the year.
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female) 1 years
- Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male) 1 years
The female will carry the eggs beneath her body, which will be released into the surf. While carrying the eggs, she must keep them wet by frequently entering the water. Some females may turn upside down in the water to ventilate their eggs. ( Mitchell, 2007 ; Rothschild, 2004 )
- Parental Investment
- female parental care
The typical lifespan of Ocypode quadrata is about 3 years. ( Portell, et al., 2003 )
Ocypode quadrata is primarily nocturnal. A crab constructs new burrows or repairs older ones during the morning. In the early afternoon it plugs the burrows and stay in them until after sunset. Burrows range from 0.6 to 1.2 m long and the width of burrows approximates the carapace size of the burrower. The width of the burrow tends to be about equal to the width of the carapace. Younger, smaller crabs tend to burrow closer to the water. While foraging at night, a crab can travel up to 300 m, so it will not return to the same burrow each day. Ghost crabs hibernate in their burrows from October to April. Ocypode quadrata is considered semiterrestrial. It has developed an interesting adaptation for life on land: A crab will occasionally will return to the water to wet its gills; however it can also get water from damp sand. Ghost crabs use fine hairs on the base of their legs to wick water from the sand up onto its gills. ( Branco, et al., 2010 ; Hobbs, et al., 2008 ; Knott, 2010 )
- Key Behaviors
- Range territory size 0 to 400 m^2
Ghost crab burrows can be found from the high tide line to 400 m shoreward. ( Hobbs, et al., 2008 )
Communication and Perception
Ghost crabs communicate using many sounds, including striking the ground with their claws, stridulation (rubbing together) of their legs and making a “bubbling sound”. Males compete in a ritualized matter that avoids the need for physical contact. ( Shields, 1998 )
- Communication Channels
Ghost crabs are both predators and scavengers, and they feed at night. Their prey can be influenced by the type of beach they live on. Crabs on oceanfront beaches tend to feed on bean clams ( Donax spp.) and mole crabs ( Emerita talpoida ), while crabs on more protected beaches will feed on the eggs and hatchlings of loggerhead turtles ( Caretta caretta ). ( Knott, 2010 )
- Primary Diet
- eats non-insect arthropods
- Animal Foods
- terrestrial non-insect arthropods
- Foraging Behavior
- stores or caches food
Ghost crabs have few terrestrial predators. They are largely nocturnal to reduce the risk of being eaten by shorebirds and gulls. When they do leave their burrows during the day, they are able to slightly change their color to match the surrounding sand. Another predator is the raccoon. ( Knott, 2010 ; Mitchell, 2007 )
- Anti-predator Adaptations
- Raccoons, Procyon
- Burrowing Owl, Speotyto cunicularia
- Gulls, multiple genera
The main role of Ocypode quadrata in its ecosystem is the role of top predator in the filter-feeding based food chain. The majority of their food is live prey, although they are also facultative scavengers. Ghost crabs can consume the majority of the production of both Donax and Emerita talpoida crabs. They are a crucial part of the food chain, playing an important role in the energy transfer from organic detritus and smaller invertebrates to larger predators. ( Fisher and Tevesz, 1979 )
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Ghost crabs have been used as indicators for measuring the impacts of human use on beaches. Their population is relatively easy to monitor; the density of ghost crabs on a beach can be estimated by counting the number of burrows in a certain area. Population densities have declined due to habitat modification and heavy, continuous trampling. Because ghost crabs are apex predators of the habitat, monitoring their population can allow humans to assess the impact of human activity on sandy beach ecosystems. ( Hobbs, et al., 2008 ; Schlacher and Lucrazi, 2009 )
- Positive Impacts
- research and education
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no known adverse effects of Ocypode quadrata on humans.
Currently, ghost crabs are not considered threatened or endangered. One of the main threats to ghost crabs is off-road vehicles (ORVs). The ORVs can crush or bury the crabs and interfere with their reproductive cycle. ORVs can greatly affect ghost crabs at night when they are feeding. Another threat is a decline in their habitat; construction in the upper intertidal zone for residential or commercial use can caused increased mortality and a potential decline in the population. ( Hobbs, et al., 2008 ; Knott, 2010 )
- IUCN Red List Not Evaluated
- US Federal List No special status
- CITES No special status
- State of Michigan List No special status
While there is no directly negative influence of ghost crabs on humans, Ocypode quadrata has been shown to have a negative impact on turtle populations. There have been efforts to control ghost crab populations due to their predation on turtle eggs. Studies have found that ghost crabs consume up to 10% of turtle eggs when they prey on a nest, and they have also been known to prey on the hatchlings. Measures to control populations around turtle nesting sites have included destroying burrows and using raccoons that prey on the crabs. ( Barton and Roth, 2008 )
Lisa Izzo (author), Rutgers University, Nikhita Kothari (author), Rutgers University, David V. Howe (editor), Rutgers University, Renee Mulcrone (editor), Special Projects.
the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.
uses sound to communicate
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
flesh of dead animals.
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
an area where a freshwater river meets the ocean and tidal influences result in fluctuations in salinity.
parental care is carried out by females
Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.
the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.
the area of shoreline influenced mainly by the tides, between the highest and lowest reaches of the tide. An aquatic habitat.
A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
breeding takes place throughout the year
Barton, B., J. Roth. 2008. Implications of intraguild predation for sea turtle nest protection. Biological Conservation , 141:8: 2139-2145.
Branco, J., J. Hillesheim, H. Fracasso, M. Christoffersen, C. Evangelista. 2010. Bioecology of the ghost crab Ocypode quadrata (Fabricius, 1787) (Crustacea: Brachyura) compared with other intertidal crabs in the Southwestern Atlantic. Journal of Shellfish Research , 29 (2): 503-512. Accessed June 06, 2011 at http://www.avesmarinhas.com.br/Bioecoloy%20of%20the%20ghost%20crab%20Ocypode%20quadrata.pdf .
Burggren, W. 1988. Biology of the Land Crabs . New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Diaz, H., J. Costlow. 1972. Larval development of Ocypode quadrata (Brachyura: Crustacea) under laboratory conditions. Marine Biology , 15: 120-131. Accessed June 06, 2011 at http://www.springerlink.com/content/x5wtn75201827841/fulltext.pdf .
Fisher, J., M. Tevesz. 1979. Within-habitat spatial patterns of Ocypode quadrata (Fabricius) (Decapoda Brachyura). Crustaceana , Supplement No. 5: 31-36.
Haley, S. 1969. Relative growth and sexual maturity of the Texas ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata (Fabr.) (Brachyura, Ocypodidae). Crustaceana , 17 (3): 285-297.
Haley, S. 1972. Reproductive cycling in the ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata (Fabr.) (Brachyura, Ocypodidae). Crustaceana , 23 (1): 1-11.
Hobbs, C., C. Landry, J. Perry. 2008. Assessing anthropogenic and natural impacts on ghost crabs ( Ocypode quadrata ) at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina. Journal of Coastal Research , 24 (6): 1450-1458.
Knott, D. 2010. "Atlantic ghost crab: Ocypode quadrata " (On-line). Accessed June 06, 2011 at http://www.dnr.sc.gov/cwcs/pdf/Ghostcrab.pdf .
McDermott, J. 2009. Notes on the unusual megalopae of the ghost crab Ocypode quadrata and related species (Decapoda: Brachyura: Ocypodidae). Northeastern Naturalist , 16 (4): 637-646.
Mitchell, P. 2007. "Ghost Crab: hungry nocturnal ghosties" (On-line). Mitchells Publications. Accessed June 06, 2011 at http://www.mitchellspublications.com/guides/shells/articles/0057 .
Portell, R., R. Turner, J. Beerensson. 2003. Occurance of the Atlantic ghost crab Ocypode quadrata from the Upper Pleistocene to Holocene Anastasia formation of Florida. Journal of Crustacean Biology , 23 (3): 712-722.
Rothschild, S. 2004. Beachcomber’s Guide to Gulf Coast Marine Life: Third Edition: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida . Lanham, MD: Taylore Trade Publishing.
Schlacher, T., S. Lucrazi. 2009. Monitoring beach impacts: a case for ghost crabs as ecological indicators?. 2nd Queensland Coastal Conference, Gold Coast: 1-15.
Shields, J. 1998. "The ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata " (On-line). Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Accessed June 06, 2011 at http://www.vims.edu/~jeff/ghost.htm .
Wolcott, T. 1978. Ecological role of ghost crabs, Ocypode quadrata (Fabricius) on an ocean beach: scavengers or predators?. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology , 31 (1): 67-82.
da Rosa, L., C. Borzone. 2008. Spatial distribution of the Ocypode quadrata (Crustacea: Ocypodidae) along estuarine environments in the Paranagua Bay Complex, southern Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Zoologia , 25 (3): 383-388. Accessed June 06, 2011 at http://submission.scielo.br/index.php/zool/article/view/1636/313 .
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Are Ghost Crabs Edible?
Ghost crabs, also known as sand crabs or sand bubbler crabs, are edible, but they don’t supply as much meat as other crab species. They tend only to be a source of food for sea birds or raccoons; however, they may be consumed safely.
What Is a Ghost Crab?
Ghost crabs are crustaceans belonging to the family Ocypodidae. They are quite smaller in size compared to other crab species. On average, they measure about 2-3 inches.
Ghost crabs are found in coastal areas around the world, including tropical and subtropical regions. They inhabit sandy beaches , mudflats, and intertidal zones, where they can find suitable conditions for survival.
These small crabs have a unique appearance that helps them hide on the sandy shores. They have a semi-translucent exoskeleton and their coloration can vary from pale yellow to gray or brown; this color allows them to blend in with the sand.
They are most active during the night. They spend their days burrowing in the sand and emerge at night to scavenge for food. However, they can also be found during low tide, especially in areas where the tide exposes portions of the beach.
They are very agile and fast , which allows them to swiftly navigate the beach and evade potential predators. They also actively sift through the sand, consuming microorganisms and detritus.
Species of Ghost Crabs
Here are a few common ghost crab species:
- Ocypode ceratophthalma: This is one of the most widespread species found on the Atlantic coast and on the coastal beaches of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean.
- Ocypode gaudichaudii: Also known as the horn-eyed ghost crab , this species is found in the Indo-Pacific and Eastern Pacific regions. It has distinct eyestalks with horn-like projections.
- Ocypode quadrata: Found along the eastern coast of the U.S., from Massachusetts to Brazil, this species is commonly known as the Atlantic ghost crab.
- Ocypode ryderi: This species is native to the western coast of the Americas, from Mexico to Peru. It is commonly known as the Pacific ghost crab or ryder’s ghost crab.
Can You Eat Ghost Crabs?
Technically you can eat ghost crabs, although you may not want to. These crabs are relatively small and do not contain a lot of crab meat.
Moreover, ghost crabs are often found in sandy beach environments that may be exposed to various contaminants and pollutants . Eating ghost crabs sourced from these areas can be risky due to environmental contamination.
If you are interested in consuming these small scavengers, other types of crabs are more palatable for their larger size, meat content, and culinary value, such as blue crabs , Dungeness crabs, snow crabs, and king crabs .
What Do Ghost Crabs Taste Like?
People who have tried ghost crabs describe their meat as bitter, bland and lacking distinct flavor. These tiny crabs are not considered as flavorful or succulent as other crab species that are commonly consumed for their taste.
How to Catch a Ghost Crab?
Ghost crabs are usually active at night, so head to a sandy beach or shoreline during the evening or early morning hours for ghost crab hunting.
Once you locate one, approach it slowly and try to chase it down. Keep in mind that ghost crabs are fast and agile, so be prepared for quick movements.
A small handheld net with fine mesh can be helpful. Slowly lower the net over the crab, making sure to keep the opening of the net on the sand. Once the crab is inside the net, gently lift it off the ground and secure the opening to prevent the crab from escaping.
If you want to catch ghost crabs during the day, look for signs of fresh sand excavated from their burrows. Use a small shovel or your hands to dig around the entrance of the burrow. Be patient and gentle, as the crab might retreat deeper into its burrow. Once you spot the crab, carefully reach in and grab it from behind, being cautious of its pincers.
Remember, when catching ghost crabs, it’s important to handle them gently and carefully. I recommend releasing them back into their natural habitat once you have had fun catching one.
What to read next: Best Time of Day to Go Crabbing!
How Do You Cook Ghost Crabs?
Cooking ghost crabs, while possible, is not a common practice since they don’t contain a lot of meat. However, if you still want to cook ghost crabs, you can do so by following the below tips.
Rinse the crabs and remove the triangular-shaped flap on the crab’s underside (known as the apron), and discard it.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully place the cleaned ghost crabs into the boiling water and let them cook for 8-10 minutes or until the shells turn bright orange.
Once the crabs are cooked, place them in a bowl of ice water to cool down quickly. Once cooled, use a crab cracker or a mallet to crack the shells and extract the meat . Discard the shells and any inedible parts.
Ghost crab meat is delicate and can be used in various recipes that call for crab meat. You can sauté the meat with butter and garlic, add it to soups or stews, or incorporate it into crab cakes or stuffing.
What to read next: Can You Eat a Sand Crab (Mole Crab)?
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Ghost Crab (Sand Crab)
- What Is a Ghost Crab?
Table of Contents
Description, shell shedding, characteristics, reproduction, scientific classification, table of content.
This animal is also known as “Sand Crab” or “White Crab”. These are also known as “Mole Crabs”.
This animal has a pale body color that is similar to the color of sand. This makes it nearly invisible when it crawls about over sand. It is because of this apparent invisibility that the crab has got its unique name. The name is also suggestive of the fact that the activities of this creature are mainly restricted to night.
This animal has five pairs of legs. The first pair is called Chelipeds and is shaped like claws. The legs, when jointly used, can make crabs move in any direction – forward, backward or sideways. In male crabs of this species, one claw is slightly larger than the other.
It has large black eyes that are supported on stalks. Its eyes help it see in any direction. There are horns attached to the end of the eyes of male crabs. It is by these horns that the gender of a crab is recognized. The eyes of these creatures are sensitive to changes in light.
The large eyes of these crabs give them a wide field of vision. The eyesight of these creatures is very good. This helps them spot predators very quickly and find out any other threats.
It is about 2-3 inches in size.
It has a water-tight exoskeleton (external skeletal structure) which prevents the creature from becoming dry. The body covering also lends support to its muscles and organs.
With increasing maturity, the crab begins to lose its external skeleton. It comes off at a point, only to be replaced by a new, slightly larger shell. The new shell takes some time to harden and until that happens, the crab remains vulnerable.
This creature is found in sandy beaches of tropical as well as subtropical coasts. It can be found anywhere from the American Atlantic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea to coasts along the American Pacific and the Indo-Pacific.
These crabs are usually found in sandy beaches and backshores where they live in burrows. Crabs usually burrow a deep hole to keep themselves cool during the daytime. They remain in burrows during daytime and when winter is at its coldest.
It is omnivorous, meaning it feeds on both animals and plants. It can also devour other crabs and detritus. The creature feeds on snails, clams, turtle hatchlings, lizards and small crabs. Ghost Crab foods also include organic matter.
Source – umces
This is an exceptional creature that possesses the unique ability to store oxygen in airbags located close to its gills. When the creature buries itself in the sand during winter hibernation, it survives on this stored oxygen.
The crab can move on the sand at about 10 miles per hour and is able to change is direction suddenly.
It burrows into the sand at a 45-degree angle for a depth of up to 4 feet. It creates holes of 1-2 inch width. Adult crabs of this family occasionally dig a burrow with two entrance shafts.
The digging activities of these crabs have been reportedly heard even 2 meters (6.5 ft) away.
Ghost crabs generally look for food at night. This is also the time when they dig and repair their burrows. They search beaches for any animal or plant that has been washed ashore. It is rare to see these crabs during daytime as they are mainly active during the night.
Mature male ghost crabs neatly pile the burrowed sand next to their entrance. Young and female crabs do not make a neat pile and the sand they dig out is scattered in all directions beside their entrance. Female crabs can identify a male residence by the neat sand pile and get a mate for themselves.
Younger crabs burrow and make homes in the area of shore that is closer to water. Older crabs are seen to burrow away from water.
These crabs can make three types of sounds, by stroking their right claw on the substratum of their leg, by rubbing their legs together and through their gill chamber.
The animal breathes in through its gills. They periodically make their gills moist with seawater. The gill chamber produces bubbling sounds that can be heard by people who go for tanning at the beach.
The creature retreats to the ocean while laying eggs. The eggs of this creature turn into marine larvae.
This crustacean communicates through sounds with other members of its family. The creature has a unique mechanism on its right claw known as a Stridulating organ. When it strokes this against the bottom of its leg, a squeaky noise is produced. A crab produces this noise to warn other crabs not to enter its burrow. Male crabs also use this sound to attract female mates.
Ghost Crabs can make very good pets if properly looked after. If you are planning to breed these crabs in your home, here are some steps that you have to follow.
- Get a tank of about 20 gallon size. If you want to keep over four crabs in only one tank, it is advisable that you buy one of larger size.
- Fill half of the Ghost Crab tank with thick sand.
- Keep little shells, rocks and small plants in the tank. This will recreate an atmosphere similar to a sea shore and keep your crabs entertained!
- Sift the sand with a small branch or sifter to keep the contents of the tank clean. Do this once every week to rotate fresh sand. The more the crabs you have in the tank, the more frequently you should rotate the sand.
- Use clams and oysters or even old vegetables and fish to your crab. Repetition in diet can tire your crabs and make their survival difficult. Try to find out which foods your crab like. Feed that often to your crab and also balance it with other foods.
Female crabs of this species have a rounded abdominal flap. Thousands of eggs are incubated inside the flap. These are freed into the sea after being matured. The eggs mature into larvae at sea after over two months and then return back to the shore.
Studies have shown the density of Ghost Crab harvesting to be around 3000-5000 every km every year.
Know some of the most interesting facts associated with these creatures.
- These crabs can hold oxygen in their air sacs for about six weeks.
- It wets it gills for two purposes, reproduction and respiration. Occasionally, the crab draws up water from moist sand to moisten its gills.
- The strong hairy legs of this animal make it run very fast and achieve speeds of about 10 miles per hour. This makes this crab the fastest among all crustaceans.
- The crab has club-shaped eyestalks and it boasts of a 360° vision. This helps it see and catch insects that are even in mid-air.
- It has the exceptional capability to shrink back its eyes into grooves located on the frontal area of its shell.
- Contrary to what many think, these creatures cannot swim in water. However, female crabs can keep themselves afloat by turning upside down in water. This is done to let the egg mass under their abdomen respire freely.
- Occasionally, the crabs go out into the sea to protect themselves from predators such as raccoons and birds .
- They devour baby turtles while they hatching out in the sand. The crabs drag the baby turtles into their burrows and eat them up.
- Crabs of this species usually engage in a combat that is non-contact. The combat style is more ritualistic in style and ends in contact in very rare cases.
Want to know how these crabs look like? Here are some useful Ghost Crab Pics. Check out these Ghost Crab photos to get an idea about the appearance of these creatures.
Source – webs
Source – examiner
This crab changes its pace as its speed increases. It can walk for an indefinite period of time on four pairs of legs. At very high speed, it raises its fourth pair off the ground. At highest speed, it uses only the first two pairs of walking legs to keep running.
19 responses to “Ghost Crab (Sand Crab)”
I have some very good examples of ghost crabs that are thousands of years old. They are calcified and only found in the area I live, in Florida. If you are intereted I can send pics. I also have a paper on the subject from a local university.
I’m writing a field report on ghost crabs right now (Ocypode quadrata). I’d be very interested in reading the paper you’ve got =).
this helped me with my science project on ghost crabs thanks
I am a park ranger in Florida. I will be doing a ranger program on ghost crabs soon. A couple of pics of the ghost crab fossils would be great to add to the program! Thank you! Hope you see this comment.
[…] Animal Spot: Ghost Crab […]
I’m interested in seeing more photos of the sand crabs 🙂 would you mind sending me some?
yes, we study bird nest productivity on our Florida State park beaches and ghost crabs have been documented in eating snowy plover eggs,chicks and make attempts at eating adult plovers. They also eat least tern eggs and harass least tern adults on nests. We have some footage on youtube looking at defense mechanisms feigning broken wing to lure ghost crabs away from snowy plover nests.
Question about sand crabs – we have been watching them all week at a NC beach. However, last night there were none to be found. It is close to a full moon – does this have any impact on them? All other nights have been cloudy. If not, any idea why they would be out one night and not another?
My husband and I found one on the coast of Galveston over labor day weekend. It was a pregnant female. She had her thousands of larvae last night. Would love some advice on how to care for all the larvae. We have an established 100 gallon saltwater tank and would hate to put all the larvae in there with all the fish.
These things are cool! Is it possible to spot a Ghost Crab in Maine? I’ve never heard of these types of crabs. Would a ghost crab pinch like an ordinary crab? Thanks.
It’s interesting to hear that this crab is nocturnal. My husband and I have been frequenting the Playalinda Beach near Titusville Florida, and this last month we have been watching many many ghost crabs during the day. We are absolutely fascinated by them! They display all of the characteristics and activities that you mention. We have seen one baby that is almost minuscule and is already displaying the exact behavior of burrowing out its hole. From our chairs we can sometimes see six or seven of them at a time within our vision. They are very very cautious and can move like lightning. We took a video with our phone that shows a crab flinging its load of sand away from its hole. Very entertaining creatures. Thank you for this interesting information.
It was pretty weird to hear they were nocturnal.
Do they have a type of exercise or health for the ghost crab just asking because if they do that is a cool thing!
This website is epic
This website rules
I’m originally from Rhode Island but currently living in Central Florida. I was sitting on the Beach in Cocoa and all of sudden I felt a tickle on my toe. I sit up to find a white and yellow crab at my feet. I was so shocked to see this crab so close to me and not to mention how this crab touched my toe. Very interesting and beautiful crab. Came on here to find more info.
How do they flick the sand out of their burrow?
We live near a protected barrier island, and enjoy taking our small whaler out to spend part of a beautiful day, to walk the sandy beach that extends about 20 undeveloped beautiful miles, sit and watch waves without people except for the usual few surfers, locals, and visitors. I saw this crab, who appeared to be alive, with so much color and very large, yet was not moving. I took a photo of it and sent it to the island’s preserve group who studies and protects the island’s wildlife. It is apparently a ghost or sand crab. I could not believe they shed their exoskeletons! It looked larger than one of the normal N. C. sized crabs, but now I know why it looked alive yet was not, nor was it inside it’s body at all, not dead, just the shell left behind. I can attach a photo if you are interested. Thanks for the information on your site that they actually recommended to me, from the Masonboro Island Reserve.
Thank you Debbie! It would be helpful if you’d attach a photo or two of the exoskeleton that you saw.
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THE JOURNAL OF OUR OCEAN PLANET
Burrows on the beach
Rebuilding after a hurricane isn’t easy—especially for those pale, stalk-eyed creatures known as ghost crabs
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One day in early September, as a hazy sun came up over Duck, North Carolina, an army stormed the beach. An army of ghost crabs, that is. Hurricane Larry, a Category 3 storm that churned for several days in the open Atlantic before making landfall in Newfoundland, brought powerful waves and storm surge to Duck and other Outer Bank beaches roughly 1,500 miles to the south. And, indirectly, it brought crabs.
"There were tons of crab burrows on the lower beach after the storm," says Britt Raubenheimer, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). "Usually, we see holes on the upper beach, and not nearly so many. It seemed strange."
Raubenheimer has been working in Duck with research colleagues from U.S. and international universities and federal agencies on a multi-year field research project across the Outer Banks known as DUNEX. It relies on hundreds of instruments and sensors set up across the beach which collect data before, during, and after major hurricanes like Larry. The idea is, in part, to get a better read on how the ocean affects what happens inland during storms, and vice versa.
"The beach and dunes there act like a sponge that soaks up water from the ocean during big storms," says Raubenheimer. "When this happens, groundwater levels below the dune can rise several feet higher than normal and cause a massive bulge of water that propagates inland."
That bulge, which she likens to a massive underground wave, often leads to flooding along low-lying areas of the Outer Banks. The DUNEX research, she says, can shed light on these processes and ultimately help local communities build resilient strategies to protect their coastline.
Resilience is clearly important for the people who live in a vulnerable, storm-battered area like the Outer Banks. But what about the ghost crabs-those pale, stalk-eyed creatures that came out in droves after the storm? How do they cope after a large storm like Larry?
Crab burrows along a US Army Corps Beach in Duck, North Carolina after Hurricane Larry. (Photo courtesy of Britt Raubenheimer, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
The ecological impacts can be substantial, Raubenheimer says, particularly on the burrows that crabs hang out in during the day. After two days of intense waves during the hurricane, the upper part of the beach eroded nearly two feet, while a few feet of sand accreted on the lower beach. "Just that amount of sand movement would damage the burrows, not to mention the flow of water in and out of the beach," she says.
It turns out, the "ghosties" may have had some serious remodeling to do after Larry. Ghost crab burrows, which can run four feet deep, are typically constructed with wet grains of sand-the crabs use it as a substrate to strengthen the tunnels and help prevent collapse. But when damage occurs, the crabs either build new burrows, or try to find their way back into existing ones and make repairs.
Blaine Griffen, a marine ecologist and professor at Brigham Young University, says that in general, the burrows aren't made to last. "Ghost crab burrows are not like those built by other burrowers that are lined by mucus to provide some 'cementing' power and make the burrows somewhat static," says Griffen. "Rather, they are fairly temporary."
To repair an existing burrow, ghost crabs need to haul clawfuls of sand up through the burrow opening. They toss the sand 12-16 inches away from the opening and then smooth out the surrounding surface. Once their underground homes are in tip-top shape again, they crawl back in until nighttime when they head back out to scavenge.
To repair an existing burrow, ghost crabs like the one shown here need to haul clawfuls of sand up through the burrow opening. They toss the sand 12-16 inches away from the opening and then smooth out the surrounding surface. (Photo courtesy of Britt Raubenheimer, © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
Home repair, however, likely wasn't the only reason for the crabs' coming out party after the hurricane. Studies have shown that their presence can be heavily influenced by human activity on beaches, which is typically interrupted when the weather turns snotty. Fewer people recreating and less off-road vehicle traffic encourages these sand crabs to reclaim their turf.
Additional nutrients, too, may have brought more crabs to the beach after the hurricane. "A few of my colleagues down here suggested that the burrows may have appeared owing to the extra nutrients in the mixing area during and after the storm," says Raubenheimer. When storm surge washes onto the beach and percolates through the sand, she explains, the seawater can bring higher levels of oxygen and nutrients that mixes with the fresh groundwater below. "This may bring more good stuff through the beach and attract smaller crustaceans that are snacks for the ghosties, similar to how opening an inlet to a stagnant pond can attract a whole new ecosystem across the food chain."
While the mystery of the heightened burrowing activity falls outside the scope of the DUNEX research, it has opened some lines of inquiry that Raubenheimer would like to pursue.
"Every study sparks new questions and new ideas," she says. "A crab hole makes a nice open channel for water to flow into and thru the beach, so if there are lots of crab holes, there may be many more open conduits for ocean water to enter the beach."
This, she says, could further enhance the exchange of nutrients, oxygen, and salinity between the ocean and groundwater, and potentially reduce the offshore-flow of waves, leading to even more sand deposits on the beach after big storms.
The DUNEX research is funded by the U.S. Coastal Research Program (USCRP), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).
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I'm Singaporean, and here's all the chili crab lore you need to survive the gauntlet of local seafood restaurants
- Chili crab is popular with tourists in Singapore, but it can also put a giant hole in your wallet.
- In September, a Japanese tourist was shocked to discover she'd ordered a $680 chili-crab dish.
- Here are seven tips to help you be a wiser and happier diner at a Singaporean seafood restaurant.
In September, a Japanese tourist in Singapore got a nasty shock when her restaurant bill came up to $1,000 after she ordered a chili-crab dish costing about $680.
The restaurant told Insider that its staff had clearly pointed to per-gram prices on the menu, and even showed the entire crab to the tourist before serving — standard practices in the local seafood scene that might not be apparent to the unacquainted.
Still, the tourist said she had no idea the bill would be so high, and called the police.
For travelers visiting Singapore, ordering chili crab — one of the nation's iconic dishes — might not be as straightforward as you'd expect. Prices often fluctuate depending on the season and are usually listed by weight, which can catch tourists by surprise when they're settling the bill.
Here are seven tips for any traveler dining at Singapore's seafood restaurants.
1. If they show you the whole animal, it means you're paying for the entire thing.
Whether it's a lobster, fish, or crab, if you're at a Chinese-style seafood restaurant and your waiter brings out the animal for you to see or choose — you're paying for the whole thing.
Part of it is a marketing and showmanship tactic. But Asian seafood restaurants are also particular about proving to diners that their food is fresh. It's why you'll often see tanks of live fish at the entrances of seafood spots.
And because these crabs are slaughtered to order, cooking up one and only serving half would be a massive waste to the restaurant, since the other half would go bad quickly.
It's extremely rare to be offered just half a crab or fish at such establishments.
2. Crab prices are seasonal — always ask how the restaurant is charging when you order.
Restaurants in Singapore tend to sell crab — and other shellfish — at seasonal prices. That's especially so with expensive, imported specimen like king crabs.
The charges can fluctuate day to day, and also from restaurant to restaurant, so it's best to ask the waitstaff exactly how much the crab costs right before you order it.
3. Use a calculator because some places charge by weight — and they leave you to figure out the total cost yourself.
Since crab prices are seasonal, they're often charged by weight.
It's not a given that your waiter will tally up the cost for you before serving. In some upmarket locations, staff might even be wary of offending customers by telling them the full price of a dish.
Instead, most restaurants simply announce the weight of the entire crab, meaning you'll have to calculate the total cost yourself.
Some menus also quote prices as "price per 100 grams" instead of "price per kilogram," so be careful when doing the math. They might also not include service charges and goods taxes, which typically amount to a total 18% of your bill in Singapore.
Different outlets of the same seafood restaurant can also have different pricing methods.
At popular Singaporean seafood restaurant chain Jumbo Seafood's East Coast outlet , mud crabs cost $7.90 per 100 grams for those that weigh below one kilogram and $8.60 per 100 grams for crabs that weigh one kilogram and above.
But at their Jewel Changi Airport outlet, the prices of mud crabs are charged per portion. It costs $86 for a portion that weighs approximately one kilogram, and $108 for a portion that weighs approximately 1.2 kilograms.
4. The unassuming buns — known as mantou — served with the chili crab isn't a negligible side dish.
Although the crab meat is delicious, the sweet and savory chili sauce is the real star of the show.
In most restaurants in Singapore, chili crab will be served with fried mantou — white steamed buns that have been fried until they turn golden brown — and they are not to be missed.
The best way to enjoy the chili crab sauce is to sop them up with the buns and take a big hearty bite.
5. If you pick a female crab, remember to check the underside of the main shell for roe.
Crab roe can usually be found on the underside of the main shell of female crabs, and it's considered a creamy, salty delicacy in many parts of Asia.
Apart from using the mantous to mop them up, another way to enjoy it is to order a side of plain rice and mix it into the back of the shell.
But beware, it is high in cholesterol: Three tablespoons of crab roe contains 466 milligrams of cholesterol . The Ministry of Health in Singapore recommends that cholesterol intake should be limited to less than 300 milligrams daily.
6. In Singapore, chili crab is typically cooked with mud crabs.
Lots of restaurants now advertise chili or black pepper crab cooked with Alaskan King Crabs, Scotland Snow Crabs, and Blue King Crabs.
They might make for a special dining experience, but keep in mind that chili crab was designed to be cooked with mud crabs , which can cost half of an Alaskan King Crab dish.
Many restaurants do offer the Sri Lankan mud crab — a go-to choice for locals. So you won't necessarily be losing out on the authentic experience if you try the cheaper chili crab option.
7. Most restaurants charge extra for the wet towels they hand to you, and sometimes even for peanuts.
This goes for most Chinese restaurants, and you can usually find the same practice at a Dim Sum place. Seafood restaurants almost always give you packets of wet tissues to clean up after you eat.
This isn't like free bread, even though it's sent to your table automatically. They cost extra, and sometimes can be about $1 each. A few restaurants also charge for peanut and tea refills.
Locals return the wet tissues all the time, but they can be useful for cleaning up if you opt to not eat the crab with standard-issue plastic gloves. Most people just head to the bathroom and wash their hands there.
4 ghost crab interesting facts.
Table of Contents
I don’t know about you, but when I go to the beach, I love searching for ghost crabs. They’re such curious little creatures and they always seem to pop up in the most unexpected places. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at these spooky little crabs and learn more about their habits and behavior. So if you’re looking for fun new beach activity, be sure to give ghost crab hunting a try!
Ghost Crab scientific name
The ghost crab is a nocturnal creature, spending the daylight hours in burrows that they dig in the sand. These burrows can be pretty deep and often have multiple entrances and chambers. Ghost crabs are relatively small, with a maximum width of around three inches. They get their name from their pale coloring, which helps to camouflage them in the sand. Ghost crabs are omnivorous and will eat just about anything they can find. This includes other crabs, insects, carrion, and seaweed. In addition to their regular diet, ghost crabs also enjoy eating coconuts! They will climb trees to reach the fruits and then use their powerful claws to open them up. Coconuts are not only a tasty treat for ghost crabs, but they also provide a source of moisture that is essential for survival in the hot, dry desert environment.
Ghost Crab physical appearance
Ghost crabs are small crabs that live on the beaches of tropical and subtropical areas all around the world. They get their name from their ability to blend in with their surroundings, making them very difficult to see. Ghost crabs are usually pale in color, with dark spots on their shells. They have long, thin legs that they use for running and burrowing underground. Most ghost crabs are less than four inches across, but some can grow up to six inches wide. These crabs are nocturnal animals and spend their days buried in the sand to stay calm and avoid predators. At night, they come out to hunt for food or mate. Ghost crabs are omnivorous and will eat just about anything they can catch. Their diet includes insects, carrion, other crabs, and even human garbage. Ghost crabs are a vital part of the beach ecosystem and play a role in controlling the population of other animals. These unique creatures are a fascinating part of the natural world.
Ghost Crab habitat and distribution
Ghost crabs are one of the most widespread crab species in the world, living in tropical and subtropical environments from Africa to Hawaii. They get their name from their ability to move quickly and silently across the sand, and they are often seen running along beaches at night. Ghost crabs are mainly active during the day when they can be seen digging burrows or foraging for food. At night, they retreat to their burrows to avoid predators. Ghost crabs typically live in areas with loose sand, such as beaches and dunes. They are well-adapted to these habitats, and their burrows help to stabilize the sand and prevent erosion. Ghost crabs play an essential role in the ecosystem of many coastal areas, and their population is generally healthy. However, they are sometimes considered a nuisance by beachgoers due to their tendency to steal food and property.
Ghost Crab prey and predators
Ghost crabs are small, nocturnal predators that live on beaches all over the world. Their diet consists primarily of insects and other small invertebrates, but they will also prey on any small animal they can catch, including lizards, rodents, and birds. Ghost crabs are quick and agile runners, and their large claws are powerful enough to kill their victims instantly. The crabs use their claws to dig burrows in the sand, where they live, and hide from predators. While ghost crabs have few natural predators, they are sometimes hunted by humans for food or for their shells, which are used to make jewelry and other decorative items.
Ghost Crab interesting facts
Ghost crabs are a type of crab that is found all over the world. These crabs are known for their Ghost exciting facts.
- They have the ability to change the color of their shells to match their surroundings. This helps them to camouflage themselves and avoid predators.
- Ghost crabs are also known for their burrowing habits. They dig deep tunnels in the sand where they live. These tunnels can be up to 30 feet deep!
- Ghost crabs are nocturnal creatures, meaning that they are most active at night. During the day, they stay hidden in their burrows. At night, they come out to forage for food. Ghost crab’s diet consists of small insects, worms, and other small animals.
Ghost crabs are interesting creatures that are fun to watch!
Ghost Crab reproduction and life cycles
Crab reproduction is all about returning to the ocean. For example, the female Ghost Crab will mate on the beach and then return to the ocean to release her fertilized eggs into the water. The larvae that hatch from these eggs will spend several weeks drifting in the ocean before they settle onto the bottom and begin to grow into adult crabs. Once they reach adulthood, Ghost Crabs will return to the shore to mate and continue the cycle. Although their life cycle is relatively simple, Ghost Crabs play an essential role in the health of coastal ecosystems. By scavenging for food and aerating the sand, they help to keep beaches clean and healthy. In addition, their burrows provide homes for other animals, such as shrimp and small fish . As a result, Ghost Crabs play a vital role in maintaining the balance of coastal ecosystems.
Ghost Crab in cooking
Ghost crabs are a type of crab that is found all over the world. They are a popular seafood item and are often used in cooking and fishing. Ghost crabs are known for their white, transparent shells, which make them difficult to see. This makes them a challenge to catch, but many people enjoy the struggle. Ghost crabs are also popular because they are very versatile and can be used in many different dishes. They can be boiled, baked, grilled, or even fried. No matter how you cook them, ghost crabs are sure to be a delicious addition to your meal.
Ghost Crab population
Ghost Crabs are one of the most exciting creatures on the beach. They are named for their ability to blend in with the sand, making them nearly invisible to predators and prey alike. Ghost Crabs are also known for their agility, running up to speeds of 10 miles per hour. They are omnivorous, feeding on both plants and animals. Ghost Crabs are an essential part of the ecosystem, helping to keep the beach clean by eating decaying matter. They are also a food source for many predators, including birds, snakes, and foxes. The Ghost Crab population is healthy and thriving all around the world.
Are ghost crabs aggressive?
The researchers of Scripps Institution of Oceanography have found that the Atlantic ghost crab species tend to use teeth in their stomachs so that they can growl during aggressive interactions. These animals also use their stomach sounds to communicate with each other.
In conclusion, the ghost crab is an exciting and unique creature that can be found on many beaches. They are easy to spot because of their bright colors and unusual shape. Ghost crabs make great pets and are also fun to watch in their natural habitat. If you have never seen a ghost crab before, be sure to check out your local beach the next time you go for a walk.
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