oddball saltwater fish and inverts

Ghost crabs

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These active crabs inhabit sandy beaches just above the waterline.  Most active at night, ghost crabs spend the day in spiral burrows where the insulating sand keeps them moist and cool.  Adult crabs become active at dusk, digging and repairing their burrows.  Young crabs, an inch or less across are seen on the sand surface both night and day, perhaps because they are not yet large enough or strong enough to dig their own burrows.  Ghost crabs are well named, for they seem to “disappear” – their pale colors match the sand on which they live, and they dart quickly down into burrows at any sign of disturbance.

Ghost crabs live alone in their sandy shelters, and you can tell a lot about each resident by the way their burrow is built.  The size of the burrow opening indicates the size of the crab that lives in it.  Reproductively mature male ghost crabs arrange the sand they’ve excavated from their burrow into a neat pyramid-shaped pile next to the entrance (and you can often see their “foot-prints” between the burrow entrance the pile).  But, females and young individuals just scatter the sand in all directions outside their burrows.  So, just looking down the beach, you can see where the males’ burrow are – this may be very important to the crabs at mating time, when females need to identify the location of potential mates.  Males can also be identified by the “horn” at the end of their stalked eyes.