Atlantic Ghost Crab



I met this little crab on a beach in Cape May, New Jersey. It’s Ocypoda quadrata, called a or sand crab. The Latin name Ocypoda means “fast-footed,” and quadrata describes the rectangular shape of its carapace, or back. It is pale like a ghost, and camouflaged to blend with the sand. It is famous for hunkering down and covering itself with sand very quickly, seeming to disappear before your eyes.

Atlantic ghost crab, Ocypoda quadrata.

Ghost crabs live in burrows in the sand above the high water line. They don’t go far from the ocean; females lay their eggs in the water. The crabs are mainly nocturnal, but they come out in the day.

They hunt at the water’s edge, running after the retreating surf to pick up bits of food like sand fleas, clams, mole crabs, turtle eggs, detritus, and vegetation. Ghost crabs are common on Atlantic coastal beaches from south to Brazil.

Ghost crabs have eyes on long stalks that let them see 360 degrees around; there’s no sneaking up on a ghost crab!

Julie Feinstein

Julie Feinstein

I am a Collection Manager at the American Museum of Natural History, an author, and a photographer. I live in New York City. I recently published my first popular science book, Field Guide to Urban Wildlife, an illustrated collection of natural history essays about common animals. I update my blog, Urban Wildlife Guide, every Sunday.

Julie Feinstein

Julie Feinstein

I am a Collection Manager at the American Museum of Natural History, an author, and a photographer. I live in New York City. I recently published my first popular science book, Field Guide to Urban Wildlife, an illustrated collection of natural history essays about common animals. I update my blog, Urban Wildlife Guide, every Sunday.

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