If you’re out on the beach and you wonder why tiny holes dot the shore, come back after dark. There’s a little crab who digs these tunnels, some four feet deep into the sand.
Small and iridescent, you’ll rarely see them poke their heads out during the day, because they’re very susceptible to dehydration. (Also, they’re not keen on becoming a seagull’s lunch.)
But when the sun goes down … the beach becomes a playground for the tiny crustaceans, called Ghost Crabs, for their habit of staying hidden.
“The opportunity to explore the beach at night can lead to many fascinating discoveries, not the least of which is the Ghost Crab,” says Mike Aymond, retired park ranger for Gulf Islands National Seashore. “These comical looking creatures that emerge from their burrows at night and scurry about on eight legs at high speed across the open beach are actually an important part of the ecology of Santa Rosa Island.”
- Notice how their eyes stick out from their heads? They can see 360 degrees, but not up! Another reason to stay buried in the sunny hours.
- Ghost crabs are quick, scurrying up to 10 MPH.
- These crabs store enough oxygen to hibernate all winter.
Shine your flashlight on a ghost crab and watch it freeze before darting off. This is a great moment to snap a picture to remember your ‘ghostly’ adventure.
Please remember: Ghost Crabs are creatures of the land, and they deserve our respect. Catch them, spend a little time getting to know them, but be sure to release them. Don’t take them to the pool or to your room, because your tiny new friends won’t survive there.
Enjoy the beach under the stars and the squealing laughter of your little ones as they chase the tiny crabs that call our beach home.