A ghost crab, also known as mud crab, blue crab, or shellcracker, is one of many species in the Ocypode genus of crabs that are found in the western Atlantic Ocean and inhabits muddy bottoms in the salt and brackish waters of North America, Europe, and Africa.
The Ocypode quadrata has two color phases that are based on the location of their burrows; they are either light-colored like soil or dark-colored like fresh leaves. This adaptation allows them to hide more effectively from predators and prey alike.
It is a small species of crab found in shallow waters off the coasts of North America, Europe, and Africa. It can be distinguished from other crabs by its distinctive coloration and elongated pincers which have tiny hooks at the tips to aid in gripping prey. Ghost crabs, as they are commonly known, are often seen on sandy beaches at night, particularly when there are no high tides or storms to ruin their feeding grounds with seawater.
It was originally thought to be part of the family Ocypodidae, but molecular studies show that it is part of the Xanthidae, an entirely different family of crabs. The Atlantic ghost crab favors muddy or sandy bottoms, and can be found as deep as 50 meters below sea level.
They live in the shallow waters of the western Atlantic Ocean and along the eastern coast of North America. The crabs are found from North Carolina to Florida, Bermuda, and the northern Gulf of Mexico and as far south as Brazil’s Paraíba coast in the Atlantic Ocean and Colombia’s Caribbean coast in the Pacific Ocean.
What is a ghost crab?
The Atlantic ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata, is a species of crab from both east and west coast of North America. Most commonly found on sandy beaches, it has adapted to life in shallow waters that are exposed to high amounts of light. It gets its name from its ability to disappear by flipping its body over when disturbed, leaving only two pairs of legs visible.
It also has an unusual talent for regenerating limbs after they have been lost due to injury or predation; however, there have been cases where ghost crabs have not regenerated one or more limbs, resulting in bilateral asymmetry. They can be found along beach shores from southern Canada to central Mexico and many off-shore islands including those off of Nova Scotia, Baja California Sur, Puerto Rico and Bermuda.
Ghost crab description and origin
Ocypode quadrata, also known as sand crabs, are found on both sides of North America. They live in shallow waters and sandy beaches, usually less than three feet deep. They thrive in areas where there is access to both land and sea.
They may look like a spider with their eight legs, but these animals are crustaceans just like crabs, lobsters, and shrimp that have an exoskeleton. Unlike crabs, however, which have two larger claws for prying open shells and pinching off pieces of food, they can only pinch off smaller pieces because they do not have larger claws. They also use strong jaws to tear through flesh from dead fish or other marine life; it’s one of many natural decomposers at work in ocean habitats around the world.
Ghost crab scientific name
The scientific name of the Atlantic ghost crab is Ocypode quadrata
Ghost crab habitat
If you’re thinking about adding some ghost crabs to your saltwater tank, it might be important to know where they come from. They are a species native to tropical waters along North and South America. They prefer coastal environments and can be found in mudflats and estuaries as well as mangrove forests.
Ghost crab size and weight
They can grow to be about 3 inches (8 cm) wide at maturity and weigh around 2.5 ounces.
Ghost crab adaptations
Ocypode quadrata are generally nocturnal, hiding away in moist crevices during daylight hours. They have relatively short pincers, at only 0.9 in (2 cm), but they do have long pedipalps that can be used to assist with smell and touch. Their front legs are longer than their back legs, which helps them move faster, as well as helping them protect themselves by hiding within larger rocks or driftwood piles. While these crabs can appear quite large due to their carapace widths of up to 6.3 inches (16 cm), they typically grow no more than 3.1 inches (8 cm).
The two eyes on each side of a ghost crab’s head give it excellent lateral vision while its poor depth perception means it won’t easily flee if a threat is approaching from behind. This makes it a very effective predator of smaller organisms like sea anemones and sponges, both of which lack depth perception as well.
Why are they called ghost crabs?
The name ghost crab comes from its ability to blend into its surroundings; when you walk past them you may not even notice them until a leg or claw pokes out from under a piece of seaweed or beach detritus.
The most obvious explanation for a name like ghost crab is that it’s just plain creepy. But there’s more to it than that. They are called ghost crabs because they have pale, translucent exoskeletons and live in burrows at high tide—perfect for causing all kinds of confusion for unwary beachgoers, who might mistake them for otherworldly spirits or zombies. Also, their movements look like slow-motion time-lapse photography. It really is an apt name.
A popular myth tells of someone stepping on one, which looks dead but isn’t; when the foot comes down again, he crushes both his own toe and his dinner. Like any good myth, though, there are several variations on exactly how it plays out: sometimes a leg gets squished instead of a toe; sometimes people think they’ve stepped on one only to find that what was squished wasn’t a ghost crab after all!
What do ghost crabs eat?
They are omnivores, so they consume a variety of items. The most common foods in their diet include fruits, seaweed along with algae and plankton that are washed up on shore, and carrion. And occasionally small snails, such as Littorina littorea, they also eat other invertebrates, such as dead fish. They’re also scavengers that will eat whatever is in front of them if they’re hungry enough, meaning they’ll often consume meat scraps from seafood restaurants.
Ghost crab life cycle
Their life cycle starts with courtship. After mating, females lay their eggs in long strings and then bury them in sand or gravel. Most ghost crab species protect their eggs by covering them with debris to hide them from predators, but some females, instead, choose to remain with their eggs until they hatch.
The female will then care for her young for several weeks after they have hatched. Ghost crabs are preyed upon by birds, fish, mammals, and other crustaceans. As a result, it is common for crab parents to abandon their nest immediately after hatching; once mature, ghost crabs prefer to live on dry land away from predators.
The average lifespan of a wild ghost crab is three years, although many captive individuals may live longer than ten years when protected from predators and parasites. Ghost crabs require very little water throughout most stages of their lives; they obtain all necessary moisture through food sources alone.
Are ghost crabs aggressive?
Yes, ghost crabs are aggressive. They’re a territorial species, and they’ll attack other ghost crabs that enter their territory. Most often, fighting occurs during mating season or when males challenge one another for a large food source. As with any crab, it is possible to take two males from separate territories and place them in an aquarium together—provided you give them plenty of space and hiding places.
Ghost crab lifespan
Their average life span is 3 to 4 years. Female crabs live slightly longer than males because they have a slightly higher body fat content that provides energy in case of prolonged molting or pregnancy. Large crabs die sooner than small ones because they require more food and their shells can’t withstand so much pressure before cracking.
Ghost crab predators
There are few known predators, but seagulls and foxes will eat them if they can catch them. Like other crabs, they do not die easily. If a crab is attacked by a bird, it will pull its appendages into its shell and block off any possible entrances. The bird may be able to peck through the shell, but unless it has sharp claws or a beak that can grip onto hard material, like plastic or rock, ghost carb will usually give up after a short time.
Are ghost crabs good eating?
Like other crabs, they are edible when cooked, but people rarely eat them. They’re sometimes sold in Asian markets as part of a mixed seafood dish, where they are boiled and eaten whole along with their legs and claws. Outside of Asia, ghost crabs aren’t widely eaten. If you’re interested in trying them yourself, your best bet is to cook them on their own rather than as part of a mixed seafood dish or some other recipe. Doing so will allow you to fully appreciate their unique flavor and texture.
Are ghost crabs dangerous?
They’re not dangerous to humans, but ghost crabs can be a nuisance when they sneak into homes. Fortunately, there are several effective ways to prevent these crustaceans from creeping in. For example, you could simply seal any cracks or holes that might allow them access to your home.
If you have an outdoor pool or spa, make sure to keep any drains covered with wire screens. Another option is installing motion-detecting lights at your windows and doors—these will scare away most crabs if they approach during dark hours
Can ghost crabs be pets?
Although there are plenty of animals that make good pets, ghost crabs are not among them. These solitary arthropods have special adaptations to living and hunting on land, but they still need access to a saltwater habitat where they can lay their eggs. If you’re looking for an exotic aquatic pet instead, there are many others available—but be sure that your local laws allow pet ownership before you bring home a wild animal.
Ghost crab facts
- The ghost crab’s back and claws are covered in light-sensitive cells called ommatidia, which it uses to detect movement and light. This helps it hunt for food at night—its natural hunting period.
- Ghost crabs can be easily identified by their light grey color with white spots on their claws, legs, and shell.
- Because they don’t have real eyes, they rely on these white spots to detect predators that might be approaching.
- The two most common species of ghost crabs are found off both North American coasts: one inhabiting intertidal zones and sandy beaches of Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Connecticut; and one along North Carolina coastlines down to Georgia’s barrier islands.
- The name ghost crab comes from its ability to blend into its surroundings; when you walk past them you may not even notice them until a leg or claw pokes out from under a piece of seaweed or beach detritus.