You really have to love the Ghost Crab. The latin name, Oxypoda quadrata, literally means fleet footed, and it’s such fun to see them race across a beach!
We will eventually do a specific video about all the things a ghost crab eats, including sea turtles. They’re a predator of almost every small crustacean on the beach, and they often raid turtle nests for eggs or hatchlings or even bird nests for eggs.
I find their burrows completely fascinating: sometimes they seem to try to fit into too small a hole, sometimes they defend them against interlopers, and sometimes they drag all sorts of trash back to the entrance.
Like other crabs, Ghost Crabs breathe with gills, and I had always heard that they need to get their gills wet twice a day. (This is why we often see them on the beach ducking into a wave.). But when I was researching them, I was fascinated to find that they can absorb water from the hairs on their legs, allowing them to get their gills wet enough to absorb oxygen.
In addition, females return to the water to lay eggs, which hatch into zooplankton, which morph into the tiniest crabs that emerge onto the beach. These tiny crabs have tiny holes closer to the water than the large ones that live in the dunes.
Sometimes when we get to the beach in the morning, the beach is all torn up with claw marks. This is where a ghost crab wandered along, pinching with his sharp front claws, looking for the coquinas and mole crabs that are right below the surface of the sand.
They must have a pretty active overnight life: our friend Kai took this incredibly cool photo a few years ago.
When the Hunter becomes the Hunted
Ghost crabs are chased by predators as well: most dog owners have to keep their domestic canines from digging practically to the bottom of a burrow in search of a ghost crab. And as for wild canines: check out this coyote pup playing with his food:
The next time you’re at the beach, look for the field signs of these fast-footed residents of the shore.