Atlantic Ghost Crab Ocypode quadrata

Also known as the sand crab, the Atlantic ghost crab is a sand-colored crustacean with a distinct pair of white claws. Ghost crabs are active on coastal beaches in the Chesapeake Bay region from spring through autumn.

ghost crab with eggs

The Atlantic ghost crab has a square-shaped, semi-translucent shell that can measure up to three inches; males are generally larger than females. These crabs are able to change their coloring to match their surroundings, making them less vulnerable to predators.

Young ghost crabs are much darker than adults, with shells colored a mottled gray and brown. These crabs have four pairs of walking legs and one pair of white claws, and their large, club-shaped eyestalks can rotate 360 degrees.

Ghost crabs are omnivorous, feeding on insects, filter-feeders (like clams and mole crabs) and the eggs and hatchlings of loggerhead turtles. They will also scavenge for vegetation and detritus.

Common predators include raccoons, shorebirds and gulls. Ghost crabs fend off predators by darting into their burrows or flattening their bodies just under the surface of the sand.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Mating can occur throughout the year, and often takes place in or near the burrow of a male. Crab burrows can be up to four feet deep, and are often found hundreds of feet from the water's edge. Younger ghost crabs burrow close to the water, while older ghost crabs burrow higher up on the beach.

While mating, males release a fluid with their sperm that will harden and prevent rival sperm from reaching the female's ova. Females carry developing eggs under their bodies before releasing them into the water, where larvae will develop. The average life span of a ghost crab is three years.

Did You Know?

  • The Latin name Ocypode means "swift-footed."
  • Ghost crabs do not have to return to the water to wet their gills; instead, they are able to use fine hairs located on the base of their legs to wick up water from damp sand.
  • Ghost crabs can create three sounds: striking the ground with their claws, rubbing their legs together or making a bubbling sound.
  • More terrestrial than any other crab in the Chesapeake Bay, ghost crabs enter the water only to moisten their gills and develop eggs. Rather than enter the water completely, ghost crabs prefer to brace themselves on the sand and allow incoming waves to wash over their bodies.

Sources and Additional Information

  • Life in the Chesapeake Bay by Alice Jane Lippson and Robert L. Lippson
  • Atlantic Ghost Crab – South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
  • Ocypode quadrata: Atlantic ghost crab – University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Animal Diversity Web

  • About Animal Names
  • Educational Resources
  • Special Collections
  • Browse Animalia

More Information

Additional information.

  • Encyclopedia of Life

Ocypode quadrata Atlantic ghost crab

Geographic Range

The range of Ocypode quadrata extends from Block Island, Rhode Island to Santa Catarina, Brazil. It has also been found in Bermuda, and larvae have been found as far north as Woods Hole, MA, however no adults have been found at this latitude. Their basic range is 40 degrees N to 30 degrees S on the eastern coasts of North and South America. ( Fisher and Tevesz, 1979 ; Knott, 2010 )

  • Biogeographic Regions

Ghost crabs inhabit tropical and subtropical areas and can be found on both oceanic and more protected estuarine beaches. They are found on the supralittoral zone (the area above the spring high tide line) of sand beaches, from the water line up to the dunes. ( Branco, et al., 2010 ; Fisher and Tevesz, 1979 ; da Rosa and Borzone, 2008 )

  • Habitat Regions
  • saltwater or marine
  • Aquatic Biomes
  • Other Habitat Features
  • intertidal or littoral
  • Range elevation 0 to 3.05 m 0.00 to 10.01 ft
  • Average elevation 2 m 6.56 ft

Physical Description

Ocypode quadrata is small, having a carapace length of about 5 cm (2 inches) at maturity. They are either straw-colored or grayish-white. They have a quadrate carapace, large club-shaped eyestalks, unequal chelipeds (claws) and long walking legs. Males are generally larger than females. ( Fisher and Tevesz, 1979 )

  • Other Physical Features
  • ectothermic
  • bilateral symmetry
  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Average length 50 mm 1.97 in


After hatching from an egg, Ocypode quadrata has five zoea stages and one megalopa stage. The megalopa stage requires at least 35 days for development. The larvae develop in saline water. The megalopa stage of Ocypode quadrata is one of the largest of the brachyuran crabs. Metamorphosis into the first crab stage takes place at the surf-beach interface. ( Diaz and Costlow, 1972 ; McDermott, 2009 )

  • Development - Life Cycle
  • metamorphosis


Mating can occur throughout the year. Unlike other crab species, ghost crabs can mate even when the female’s integument is hard, which means that they can mate anytime after sexual maturation. This is an adaptation to terrestrial life. Mating occurs while both the male and the female have a hard shell. Usually mating will occur somewhere in or near the burrow of the male. Often copulatory plugs are found in ghost crabs; the male will release a seminal fluid along with his sperm that will become hard and prevent rival sperm from reaching the female’s ova. (; Burggren, 1988 ; Rothschild, 2004 )

  • Mating System

In the Carolinas, ghost crabs spawn from April through July. Females will mature and ovulate in April and again in August. Females reach sexual maturity when their carapace is larger than 25 mm. Males reach sexual maturity when their carapace is larger than 24 mm. This usually occurs when they are about a year old. ( Haley, 1969 ; Haley, 1972 ; Hobbs, et al., 2008 ; Portell, et al., 2003 ; Rothschild, 2004 )

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • year-round breeding
  • Breeding season Mating occurs throughout the year.
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female) 1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male) 1 years

The female will carry the eggs beneath her body, which will be released into the surf. While carrying the eggs, she must keep them wet by frequently entering the water. Some females may turn upside down in the water to ventilate their eggs. ( Mitchell, 2007 ; Rothschild, 2004 )

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care


The typical lifespan of Ocypode quadrata is about 3 years. ( Portell, et al., 2003 )

Ocypode quadrata is primarily nocturnal. A crab constructs new burrows or repairs older ones during the morning. In the early afternoon it plugs the burrows and stay in them until after sunset. Burrows range from 0.6 to 1.2 m long and the width of burrows approximates the carapace size of the burrower. The width of the burrow tends to be about equal to the width of the carapace. Younger, smaller crabs tend to burrow closer to the water. While foraging at night, a crab can travel up to 300 m, so it will not return to the same burrow each day. Ghost crabs hibernate in their burrows from October to April. Ocypode quadrata is considered semiterrestrial. It has developed an interesting adaptation for life on land: A crab will occasionally will return to the water to wet its gills; however it can also get water from damp sand. Ghost crabs use fine hairs on the base of their legs to wick water from the sand up onto its gills. ( Branco, et al., 2010 ; Hobbs, et al., 2008 ; Knott, 2010 )

  • Key Behaviors
  • hibernation
  • Range territory size 0 to 400 m^2

Ghost crab burrows can be found from the high tide line to 400 m shoreward. ( Hobbs, et al., 2008 )

Communication and Perception

Ghost crabs communicate using many sounds, including striking the ground with their claws, stridulation (rubbing together) of their legs and making a “bubbling sound”. Males compete in a ritualized matter that avoids the need for physical contact. ( Shields, 1998 )

  • Communication Channels

Food Habits

Ghost crabs are both predators and scavengers, and they feed at night. Their prey can be influenced by the type of beach they live on. Crabs on oceanfront beaches tend to feed on bean clams ( Donax spp.) and mole crabs ( Emerita talpoida ), while crabs on more protected beaches will feed on the eggs and hatchlings of loggerhead turtles ( Caretta caretta ). ( Knott, 2010 )

  • Primary Diet
  • eats non-insect arthropods
  • Animal Foods
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Foraging Behavior
  • stores or caches food

Ghost crabs have few terrestrial predators. They are largely nocturnal to reduce the risk of being eaten by shorebirds and gulls. When they do leave their burrows during the day, they are able to slightly change their color to match the surrounding sand. Another predator is the raccoon. ( Knott, 2010 ; Mitchell, 2007 )

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • Raccoons, Procyon
  • Burrowing Owl, Speotyto cunicularia
  • Gulls, multiple genera

Ecosystem Roles

The main role of Ocypode quadrata in its ecosystem is the role of top predator in the filter-feeding based food chain. The majority of their food is live prey, although they are also facultative scavengers. Ghost crabs can consume the majority of the production of both Donax and Emerita talpoida crabs. They are a crucial part of the food chain, playing an important role in the energy transfer from organic detritus and smaller invertebrates to larger predators. ( Fisher and Tevesz, 1979 )

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Ghost crabs have been used as indicators for measuring the impacts of human use on beaches. Their population is relatively easy to monitor; the density of ghost crabs on a beach can be estimated by counting the number of burrows in a certain area. Population densities have declined due to habitat modification and heavy, continuous trampling. Because ghost crabs are apex predators of the habitat, monitoring their population can allow humans to assess the impact of human activity on sandy beach ecosystems. ( Hobbs, et al., 2008 ; Schlacher and Lucrazi, 2009 )

  • Positive Impacts
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Ocypode quadrata on humans.

Conservation Status

Currently, ghost crabs are not considered threatened or endangered. One of the main threats to ghost crabs is off-road vehicles (ORVs). The ORVs can crush or bury the crabs and interfere with their reproductive cycle. ORVs can greatly affect ghost crabs at night when they are feeding. Another threat is a decline in their habitat; construction in the upper intertidal zone for residential or commercial use can caused increased mortality and a potential decline in the population. ( Hobbs, et al., 2008 ; Knott, 2010 )

  • IUCN Red List Not Evaluated
  • US Federal List No special status
  • CITES No special status
  • State of Michigan List No special status

Other Comments

While there is no directly negative influence of ghost crabs on humans, Ocypode quadrata has been shown to have a negative impact on turtle populations. There have been efforts to control ghost crab populations due to their predation on turtle eggs. Studies have found that ghost crabs consume up to 10% of turtle eggs when they prey on a nest, and they have also been known to prey on the hatchlings. Measures to control populations around turtle nesting sites have included destroying burrows and using raccoons that prey on the crabs. ( Barton and Roth, 2008 )


Lisa Izzo (author), Rutgers University, Nikhita Kothari (author), Rutgers University, David V. Howe (editor), Rutgers University, Renee Mulcrone (editor), Special Projects.

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

uses sound to communicate

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

an animal that mainly eats meat

flesh of dead animals.

the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

an area where a freshwater river meets the ocean and tidal influences result in fluctuations in salinity.

parental care is carried out by females

Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.

the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.

the area of shoreline influenced mainly by the tides, between the highest and lowest reaches of the tide. An aquatic habitat.

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

Having one mate at a time.

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

active during the night

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

remains in the same area

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

breeding takes place throughout the year

Barton, B., J. Roth. 2008. Implications of intraguild predation for sea turtle nest protection. Biological Conservation , 141:8: 2139-2145.

Branco, J., J. Hillesheim, H. Fracasso, M. Christoffersen, C. Evangelista. 2010. Bioecology of the ghost crab Ocypode quadrata (Fabricius, 1787) (Crustacea: Brachyura) compared with other intertidal crabs in the Southwestern Atlantic. Journal of Shellfish Research , 29 (2): 503-512. Accessed June 06, 2011 at .

Burggren, W. 1988. Biology of the Land Crabs . New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Diaz, H., J. Costlow. 1972. Larval development of Ocypode quadrata (Brachyura: Crustacea) under laboratory conditions. Marine Biology , 15: 120-131. Accessed June 06, 2011 at .

Fisher, J., M. Tevesz. 1979. Within-habitat spatial patterns of Ocypode quadrata (Fabricius) (Decapoda Brachyura). Crustaceana , Supplement No. 5: 31-36.

Haley, S. 1969. Relative growth and sexual maturity of the Texas ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata (Fabr.) (Brachyura, Ocypodidae). Crustaceana , 17 (3): 285-297.

Haley, S. 1972. Reproductive cycling in the ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata (Fabr.) (Brachyura, Ocypodidae). Crustaceana , 23 (1): 1-11.

Hobbs, C., C. Landry, J. Perry. 2008. Assessing anthropogenic and natural impacts on ghost crabs ( Ocypode quadrata ) at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina. Journal of Coastal Research , 24 (6): 1450-1458.

Knott, D. 2010. "Atlantic ghost crab: Ocypode quadrata " (On-line). Accessed June 06, 2011 at .

McDermott, J. 2009. Notes on the unusual megalopae of the ghost crab Ocypode quadrata and related species (Decapoda: Brachyura: Ocypodidae). Northeastern Naturalist , 16 (4): 637-646.

Mitchell, P. 2007. "Ghost Crab: hungry nocturnal ghosties" (On-line). Mitchells Publications. Accessed June 06, 2011 at .

Portell, R., R. Turner, J. Beerensson. 2003. Occurance of the Atlantic ghost crab Ocypode quadrata from the Upper Pleistocene to Holocene Anastasia formation of Florida. Journal of Crustacean Biology , 23 (3): 712-722.

Rothschild, S. 2004. Beachcomber’s Guide to Gulf Coast Marine Life: Third Edition: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida . Lanham, MD: Taylore Trade Publishing.

Schlacher, T., S. Lucrazi. 2009. Monitoring beach impacts: a case for ghost crabs as ecological indicators?. 2nd Queensland Coastal Conference, Gold Coast: 1-15.

Shields, J. 1998. "The ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata " (On-line). Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Accessed June 06, 2011 at .

Wolcott, T. 1978. Ecological role of ghost crabs, Ocypode quadrata (Fabricius) on an ocean beach: scavengers or predators?. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology , 31 (1): 67-82.

da Rosa, L., C. Borzone. 2008. Spatial distribution of the Ocypode quadrata (Crustacea: Ocypodidae) along estuarine environments in the Paranagua Bay Complex, southern Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Zoologia , 25 (3): 383-388. Accessed June 06, 2011 at .

The Animal Diversity Web team is excited to announce ADW Pocket Guides!


Search in feature Taxon Information Contributor Galleries Topics Classification

  • Explore Data @ Quaardvark
  • Search Guide

Navigation Links


  • Kingdom Animalia animals Animalia: information (1) Animalia: pictures (22861) Animalia: specimens (7109) Animalia: sounds (722) Animalia: maps (42)
  • Class Malacostraca Malacostraca: information (1) Malacostraca: pictures (218) Malacostraca: specimens (5)
  • Order Decapoda Decapoda: pictures (175) Decapoda: specimens (1)
  • Family Ocypodidae fiddler crabs, ghost crabs Ocypodidae: pictures (13)
  • Genus Ocypode Ocypode: pictures (5)
  • Species Ocypode quadrata Atlantic ghost crab Ocypode quadrata: information (1) Ocypode quadrata: pictures (3)

To cite this page: Izzo, L. and N. Kothari 2011. "Ocypode quadrata" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 13, 2023 at

Disclaimer: The Animal Diversity Web is an educational resource written largely by and for college students . ADW doesn't cover all species in the world, nor does it include all the latest scientific information about organisms we describe. Though we edit our accounts for accuracy, we cannot guarantee all information in those accounts. While ADW staff and contributors provide references to books and websites that we believe are reputable, we cannot necessarily endorse the contents of references beyond our control.

  • U-M Gateway | U-M Museum of Zoology
  • U-M Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • © 2020 Regents of the University of Michigan
  • Report Error / Comment

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Grants DRL 0089283, DRL 0628151, DUE 0633095, DRL 0918590, and DUE 1122742. Additional support has come from the Marisla Foundation, UM College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Museum of Zoology, and Information and Technology Services.

The ADW Team gratefully acknowledges their support.

Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata)

A large Ghost Crab, seen at sunset at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This example is about 2 inches across.

Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata)

This small Ghost Crab is well-camouflaged.

Ghost Crab: Hungry Nocturnal Ghosties

Ghost crabs are rather cute crustaceans which are difficult to spot because they are sand-colored and somewhat diaphanuous. Their stalked black eyes give them an extraterrestrial appearance, and they scurry about in a rather purposeful manner — but you will probably only see them at dusk or at night. Ghost Crabs scavenge the beach, looking for tasty things to eat. Once a year, when baby sea turtles are hatching out, they enjoy special feasts. They drag the three-inch-long hatchlings down into their underground burrows, and devour them.

You might notice the golfball-sized entrance holes of the Ghost Crab burrows in the dry sand of the upper beach, or in the sand dunes. The burrows extend down 3-4 feet. To watch some species of Ghost Crabs built (or repair) their homes is particularly fascinating. The “Ghostie” brings up clawfuls of sand and tosses them 6-12 inches away from the burrow opening. Later on, the Ghost Crab tromps down the strewn-about sand, and, using its claws, smooths out the surface. (In contrast, other species bring up the sand in the form of little balls and leave them scattered about the entrance.) Crab tracks also clearly mark the burrow entrance. Yet another entrance style is represented by a dome of sand which covers the burrow hole. Obviously some Ghosties are more inclined than others to camouflage their home.

The burrow may slant down at a 45° angle, and has a “turn-about” chamber at the end. The tunnel home is constructed with wet grains of sand so that it will not collapse. In the winter Ghost Crabs hibernate in their burrows, “holding their breath” for six weeks by storing oxygen in specialized sacs near their gills.

When not hibernating, the Ghost Crab has to wet its gills periodically for purposes of both respiration and reproduction. The creature maintains a little seawater in the bronchial chambers. When this supply of water needs to be replenished, the Ghost Crab approaches the shoreline sideways, standing there until a wave washes in far enough to wet him. Then he scampers back to the upper beach. (On occasion a Ghost Crab can wick up enough water from damp sand to serve this purpose.)

Females with egg masses, however, need to frequently enter the water to keep the eggs wet. Although Ghost Crabs cannot swim, the females may turn upside down in the water to ventilate the egg mass which is carried under her tail. The babies begin life in the water, and then become amphibious temporially.

A third reason to sometimes visit the sea is to escape from predators — birds and raccoons, for example.

Besides eating baby sea turtles, the Ghost Crab likes beach fleas, coquina clams, mole crabs, lizards, and carrion. He feeds at night.

When the moon is full, the almost invisible Ghost Crab scuttles across the sand, facing the moon. His large eyestalks are club-shaped and capable of 360° vision, although he can't see straight overhead. (He can retract his periscope-like eyes into grooves on the front of his shell when he senses the need to protect them.) His vision is so acute that he can spot and grab insects in mid-air.

The Ghost Crab's carapace (shell) is rectangular in shape, with nearly vertical sides. His off-white to tan carapace is 1½-2 inches across. He has six strong, hairy legs which can carry him along at speeds up to 10 miles per hour, making him the fastest of all crustaceans. He can run sideways, forward, and backward. He has strong pincers of unequal size. And don't stick your hand down his burrow — he doesn't mind pinching you very hard . (He crushes his victims before gobbling them up.)

On some of the Caribbean Islands, Ghost Crabs are a human food source.

  • The specimens pictured here were found at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina .
  • Peter Meyer, Nature Guide to the Carolina Coast .
  • Carol M. Williams, Beach Bountiful: Southeast .
  • Classification: Genus Ocypode quadrata ; Family Ocypodidae .
  • Digital formatting is by Jonathan Mitchell.
  • Skip to global NPS navigation
  • Skip to this park navigation
  • Skip to the main content
  • Skip to this park information section
  • Skip to the footer section

ghost crab with eggs


Alerts in effect, ghost crabs.

Last updated: January 15, 2022

Park footer

Contact info, mailing address:.

8635 A1A South Saint Augustine, FL 32080

904 471-0116

Stay Connected

Wild Explained

Animal encyclopedia

Exploring the mysterious world of ghost crabs.

Updated on: September 14, 2023

A ghost crab in a moonlit beach setting

John Brooks

September 14, 2023 / Reading time: 5 minutes

' src=

Sophie Hodgson

We adhere to editorial integrity are independent and thus not for sale. The article may contain references to products of our partners. Here's an explanation of how we make money .

Why you can trust us

Wild Explained was founded in 2021 and has a long track record of helping people make smart decisions. We have built this reputation for many years by helping our readers with everyday questions and decisions. We have helped thousands of readers find answers.

Wild Explained follows an established editorial policy . Therefore, you can assume that your interests are our top priority. Our editorial team is composed of qualified professional editors and our articles are edited by subject matter experts who verify that our publications, are objective, independent and trustworthy.

Our content deals with topics that are particularly relevant to you as a recipient - we are always on the lookout for the best comparisons, tips and advice for you.

Editorial integrity

Wild Explained operates according to an established editorial policy . Therefore, you can be sure that your interests are our top priority. The authors of Wild Explained research independent content to help you with everyday problems and make purchasing decisions easier.

Our principles

Your trust is important to us. That is why we work independently. We want to provide our readers with objective information that keeps them fully informed. Therefore, we have set editorial standards based on our experience to ensure our desired quality. Editorial content is vetted by our journalists and editors to ensure our independence. We draw a clear line between our advertisers and editorial staff. Therefore, our specialist editorial team does not receive any direct remuneration from advertisers on our pages.

Editorial independence

You as a reader are the focus of our editorial work. The best advice for you - that is our greatest goal. We want to help you solve everyday problems and make the right decisions. To ensure that our editorial standards are not influenced by advertisers, we have established clear rules. Our authors do not receive any direct remuneration from the advertisers on our pages. You can therefore rely on the independence of our editorial team.

How we earn money

How can we earn money and stay independent, you ask? We'll show you. Our editors and experts have years of experience in researching and writing reader-oriented content. Our primary goal is to provide you, our reader, with added value and to assist you with your everyday questions and purchasing decisions. You are wondering how we make money and stay independent. We have the answers. Our experts, journalists and editors have been helping our readers with everyday questions and decisions for over many years. We constantly strive to provide our readers and consumers with the expert advice and tools they need to succeed throughout their life journey.

Wild Explained follows a strict editorial policy , so you can trust that our content is honest and independent. Our editors, journalists and reporters create independent and accurate content to help you make the right decisions. The content created by our editorial team is therefore objective, factual and not influenced by our advertisers.

We make it transparent how we can offer you high-quality content, competitive prices and useful tools by explaining how each comparison came about. This gives you the best possible assessment of the criteria used to compile the comparisons and what to look out for when reading them. Our comparisons are created independently of paid advertising.

Wild Explained is an independent, advertising-financed publisher and comparison service. We compare different products with each other based on various independent criteria.

If you click on one of these products and then buy something, for example, we may receive a commission from the respective provider. However, this does not make the product more expensive for you. We also do not receive any personal data from you, as we do not track you at all via cookies. The commission allows us to continue to offer our platform free of charge without having to compromise our independence.

Whether we get money or not has no influence on the order of the products in our comparisons, because we want to offer you the best possible content. Independent and always up to date. Although we strive to provide a wide range of offers, sometimes our products do not contain all information about all products or services available on the market. However, we do our best to improve our content for you every day.

Table of Contents

The world of ghost crabs is a fascinating and mysterious one. These small, elusive creatures can be found scuttling along sandy beaches all around the world. In this article, we will delve into the curious world of ghost crabs, exploring their unique characteristics, behaviors, life cycle, threats they face, and their vital role in the beach ecosystem.

Understanding the Ghost Crab: An Overview

The ghost crab is a fascinating creature that inhabits sandy beaches around the world. With several species to its name, each ghost crab possesses unique characteristics that make it stand out among other crustaceans.

Ghost Crab Species and Their Unique Characteristics

One common feature among all ghost crabs is their ghostly appearance. Their pale coloration provides excellent camouflage against the sandy beach backdrop, allowing them to blend seamlessly into their surroundings. This remarkable adaptation helps them evade predators and remain hidden from unsuspecting prey.

Ghost crabs have a distinctive barrel-shaped body, which is well-suited for their burrowing lifestyle. Their sharp claws are powerful tools that aid in digging and capturing prey. These crabs also possess stalked eyes that protrude from their heads, giving them a wide field of vision to carefully survey their surroundings.

One of the most impressive traits of ghost crabs is their incredible speed. Thanks to their powerful hind legs, these crabs can move at astonishing speeds across the sand. When threatened, they can quickly scurry away and disappear into their burrows, leaving behind only a trail of sand in their wake.

The Ghost Crab’s Habitat and Distribution

Ghost crabs are primarily found in sandy beach habitats, where they have adapted to life in the intertidal zone. These fascinating creatures can be seen scuttling along the shoreline, leaving small tracks in the sand as they search for food.

While ghost crabs can be found worldwide, they are most commonly seen in tropical and subtropical regions. Some species of ghost crabs have even been known to venture into temperate areas, showcasing their ability to adapt to different environments.

These crabs prefer sandy habitats with minimal vegetation, as it provides them with ample room to dig their burrows. The proximity to the ocean is also crucial for their survival, as it allows them easy access to both food and water resources. Ghost crabs are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of small organisms such as insects, mollusks, and plant matter that washes ashore.

Next time you find yourself strolling along a sandy beach, keep an eye out for these fascinating creatures. The ghost crab’s unique characteristics and adaptability make it a true marvel of the coastal ecosystem.

The Ghost Crab’s Unusual Behaviors

Nocturnal activities of ghost crabs.

Ghost crabs are primarily nocturnal creatures, preferring to emerge from their burrows under the cover of darkness. As the sun sets, these fascinating crustaceans become active, scavenging the beach for food and engaging in various social interactions with their fellow crabs.

This nighttime activity is crucial for ghost crabs as it helps them avoid predators that are active during the day, such as shorebirds and larger coastal creatures. By conducting their essential activities under the veil of darkness, they keep themselves safe from harm.

During their nocturnal adventures, ghost crabs display remarkable agility and speed. Their elongated legs allow them to navigate the sandy terrain with ease, swiftly darting from one spot to another. Their keen eyesight helps them locate potential sources of food, such as stranded marine organisms or decaying plant matter washed ashore.

Ghost crabs are not solitary creatures; they often engage in social interactions with their fellow crabs. These interactions range from territorial disputes to courtship rituals. Males, for instance, may engage in aggressive displays to establish dominance and secure mating opportunities. Females, on the other hand, may release pheromones to attract potential mates, leading to intricate courtship dances.

Burrowing and Hiding: Survival Tactics of Ghost Crabs

One of the most intriguing aspects of ghost crabs is their remarkable ability to dig and burrow. These crabs construct intricate tunnel systems in the sand, providing them with shelter from predators and harsh environmental conditions.

Ghost crabs are highly efficient diggers, using their powerful claws to excavate sand and create burrows of various depths. These burrows not only serve as a safe haven from predators but also as a means to regulate body temperature and humidity.

When threatened, ghost crabs retreat to the safety of their burrows, disappearing within seconds. Their burrows have multiple entrances and exits, allowing them to quickly escape from potential danger. Additionally, the intricate tunnel systems provide ventilation, ensuring a constant flow of fresh air within the burrow.

Ghost crabs are known to be fastidious architects, constantly maintaining and modifying their burrows. They reinforce the walls of their burrows with balls of sand, preventing them from collapsing and maintaining the structural integrity of their homes. This constant maintenance ensures their survival in the challenging beach environment.

Interestingly, ghost crabs are not the only inhabitants of their burrows. These burrows often serve as temporary shelters for other beach-dwelling organisms, such as small fish, insects, and even other crustaceans. This symbiotic relationship benefits both parties, as the ghost crabs provide protection while the other organisms contribute to the overall cleanliness and maintenance of the burrow.

The Ghost Crab’s Life Cycle

Mating and reproduction in ghost crabs.

Ghost crabs have a unique mating ritual that takes place during their nighttime escapades on the beach. Male crabs perform elaborate courtship displays, using their large claws to attract females. Once a female selects a mate, they engage in intricate mating behavior before the female carries a clutch of eggs under her abdomen.

After an incubation period, the female releases the eggs into the ocean, where they hatch into larvae and undergo a series of molts before eventually returning to land as miniature ghost crabs.

Growth and Lifespan of Ghost Crabs

As the newly hatched larvae develop and grow, they go through several stages before reaching adulthood. These growing crabs molt their exoskeletons, shedding their old shell and forming a new, larger one. This process allows them to accommodate their increasing size and helps remove any parasites or damaged body parts.

Ghost crabs have relatively short lifespans, usually living for a maximum of two to three years. However, during their short time on Earth, these crabs play an essential role in maintaining the delicate balance of the beach ecosystem.

Threats and Conservation Status of Ghost Crabs

Human impact on ghost crab populations.

Despite their resilient nature, ghost crabs face several threats due to human activities. Coastal development, pollution, and disturbance of their habitat by recreational activities threaten their populations. Light pollution from coastal developments also disrupts their natural nocturnal behavior, affecting their ability to carry out essential activities.

Current Conservation Efforts for Ghost Crabs

Fortunately, awareness of the importance of protecting ghost crabs and their habitats is growing. Conservation organizations work diligently to educate the public and promote responsible coastal management. Efforts are being made to minimize human impact on beaches and implement measures to reduce light pollution, ensuring the survival of these remarkable creatures for generations to come.

The Role of Ghost Crabs in the Ecosystem

Ghost crabs as predators and prey.

Ghost crabs play a crucial role in the beach ecosystem as both predators and prey. They scavenge the shore for various food sources, including small invertebrates, plant matter, and even small fish. Their predatory nature helps control populations of other organisms, contributing to the overall health and stability of the beach ecosystem.

Ghost Crabs and Beach Ecosystem Health

By burrowing into the sand, ghost crabs help aerate and mix the sediments, facilitating nutrient cycling and promoting the growth of microorganisms essential to the beach ecosystem. Their foraging activities also help disperse seeds, contributing to the diversity of plant life along the shore.

In conclusion, exploring the mysterious world of ghost crabs provides us with a glimpse into the fascinating lives of these unique creatures. Their survival strategies, intriguing behaviors, and important ecological roles make them a vital part of the delicate coastal ecosystems they call home. By appreciating and protecting ghost crabs and their habitats, we ensure the preservation of these enigmatic creatures for future generations to marvel at.

Related articles

  • Fresh Food for Cats – The 15 best products compared
  • The Adorable Zuchon: A Guide to This Cute Hybrid Dog
  • Exploring the Unique Characteristics of the Zorse
  • Meet the Zonkey: A Unique Hybrid Animal
  • Uncovering the Secrets of the Zokor: A Comprehensive Overview
  • Understanding the Zebu: An Overview of the Ancient Cattle Breed
  • Uncovering the Fascinating World of Zebrafish
  • Watch Out! The Zebra Spitting Cobra is Here
  • The Fascinating Zebra Tarantula: A Guide to Care and Maintenance
  • The Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker: A Closer Look
  • Uncovering the Mystery of the Zebra Snake
  • The Amazing Zebra Pleco: All You Need to Know
  • Discovering the Fascinating Zebra Shark
  • Understanding the Impact of Zebra Mussels on Freshwater Ecosystems
  • Caring for Your Zebra Finch: A Comprehensive Guide
  • The Fascinating World of Zebras
  • The Adorable Yorkshire Terrier: A Guide to Owning This Lovable Breed
  • The Adorable Yorkie Poo: A Guide to This Popular Dog Breed
  • The Adorable Yorkie Bichon: A Perfect Pet for Any Home
  • The Adorable Yoranian: A Guide to This Sweet Breed
  • Discover the Deliciousness of Yokohama Chicken
  • Uncovering the Mystery of the Yeti Crab
  • Catching Yellowtail Snapper: A Guide to the Best Fishing Spots
  • The Brightly Colored Yellowthroat: A Guide to Identification
  • Identifying and Dealing with Yellowjacket Yellow Jackets
  • The Yellowish Cuckoo Bumblebee: A Formerly Endangered Species
  • The Yellowhammer: A Symbol of Alabama’s Pride
  • The Benefits of Eating Yellowfin Tuna
  • The Yellow-Faced Bee: An Overview
  • The Majestic Yellow-Eyed Penguin
  • The Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake: A Fascinating Creature
  • The Benefits of Keeping a Yellow Tang in Your Saltwater Aquarium
  • The Beautiful Black and Yellow Tanager: A Closer Look at the Yellow Tanager
  • The Fascinating Yellow Spotted Lizard
  • What You Need to Know About the Yellow Sac Spider
  • Catching Yellow Perch: Tips for a Successful Fishing Trip
  • The Growing Problem of Yellow Crazy Ants
  • The Rare and Beautiful Yellow Cobra
  • The Yellow Bullhead Catfish: An Overview
  • Caring for a Yellow Belly Ball Python
  • The Impact of Yellow Aphids on Agriculture
  • Catching Yellow Bass: Tips and Techniques for Success
  • The Striking Beauty of the Yellow Anaconda
  • Understanding the Yarara: A Guide to This Unique Reptile
  • The Yakutian Laika: An Overview of the Ancient Arctic Dog Breed
  • The Fascinating World of Yaks: An Introduction
  • Everything You Need to Know About Yabbies
  • The Xoloitzcuintli: A Unique Breed of Dog
  • Uncovering the Mystery of Xiongguanlong: A Newly Discovered Dinosaur Species
  • Uncovering the Mysteries of the Xiphactinus Fish
  • Camp Kitchen
  • Camping Bags
  • Camping Coolers
  • Camping Tents
  • Chair Rockers
  • Emergency Sets
  • Flashlights & Lanterns
  • Grills & Picnic
  • Insect Control
  • Outdoor Electrical
  • Sleeping Bags & Air Beds
  • Wagons & Carts
  • Beds and furniture
  • Bowls and feeders
  • Cleaning and repellents
  • Collars, harnesses and leashes
  • Crates, gates and containment
  • Dental care and wellness
  • Flea and tick
  • Food and treats
  • Grooming supplies
  • Health and wellness
  • Litter and waste disposal
  • Toys for cats
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Dog apparel
  • Dog beds and pads
  • Dog collars and leashes
  • Dog harnesses
  • Dog life jackets
  • Dog travel gear
  • Small dog gear
  • Winter dog gear

© Copyright 2023 | Imprint | Privacy Policy | About us | How we work | Editors | Advertising opportunities

Certain content displayed on this website originates from Amazon. This content is provided "as is" and may be changed or removed at any time. The publisher receives affiliate commissions from Amazon on eligible purchases.

  • Original Research
  • Published: 08 November 2023

Extreme predation of eggs and hatchlings for loggerhead turtles in eastern Indian Ocean

  • Casper Avenant   ORCID: 1 ,
  • Scott Whiting   ORCID: 2 ,
  • Sabrina Fossette   ORCID: 2 ,
  • Peter Barnes 3 &
  • Glenn A. Hyndes   ORCID: 1  

Biodiversity and Conservation ( 2023 ) Cite this article

61 Accesses

Metrics details

Understanding predator-prey interactions at the vulnerable egg and hatchling stage of sea turtles is crucial to effectively manage these threatened marine species. Our research quantified ghost crab predation on loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta at Gnaraloo Bay and Bungelup Beach, two of the four principal nesting sites for this species in the Southeast Indian Ocean. We counted ghost crab burrows along belt transects as a proxy for crab densities. We used start- and end-of-season nesting inventories to determine egg predation rates, in-situ accelerometers to measure predation activity in nests, and infrared videography to assess predation rates on emerging hatchlings. Ghost crab densities and egg predation rates at Gnaraloo Bay were almost twice those at Bungelup Beach. Egg predation was most prevalent at night and in the first and third trimesters of incubation. We did not observe any hatchlings emerging from nests at Gnaraloo Bay, while we observed predation, mainly by ghost crabs and to a lesser extent by seagulls, on 43% of hatchlings at Bungelup Beach. The alarmingly high rate of mortality due to native predators highlights a need for immediate management actions to mitigate this threat to a globally important loggerhead turtle stock. Our multi-method approach provides a holistic estimation of reproductive success from when eggs were laid to when hatchlings reached the relative safety of the ocean.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution .

Access options

Buy single article.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Price includes VAT (Russian Federation)

Rent this article via DeepDyve.

ghost crab with eggs

Data Availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Ackerman RA (1997) The nest environment and the embryonic development of sea turtles. In: Lutz PL, Musick JA (eds) The Biology of Sea turtles, vol 1. CRC Press, New York, pp 83–106.

Chapter   Google Scholar  

Algar D, Johnston M, Tiller C, Onus M, Fletcher J, Desmond G, Hamilton N, Speldewinde P (2020) Feral cat eradication on Dirk Hartog Island, Western Australia. Biol Invasions 22:1037–1054.

Article   Google Scholar  

Ali A, Ibrahim K (2002) Crab predation on green turtle (Chelonia mydas) eggs incubated on a natural beach and in turtle hatcheries, in: Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on SEASTAR 2000. Kyoto, pp. 95–100.

Allison NL, DeStefano S (2006) Equipment and techniques for Nocturnal Wildlife studies. Wildl Soc Bull 34:1036–1044.[1036:eatfnw];2

Baena ML, Escobar F, Halffter G, García-Chávez JH, Rummer JL (2015) Distribution and feeding behavior of Omorgus suberosus (Coleoptera: Trogidae) in Lepidochelys olivacea Turtle nests. PLoS ONE 10:1–19.

Article   CAS   Google Scholar  

Barton BT, Roth JD (2007) Raccoon removal on Sea Turtle Nesting beaches. J Wildl Manage 71:1234–1237.

Blamires SJ (2004) Habitat preferences of Coastal Goannas (Varanus panoptes): are they exploiters of Sea Turtle nests at Fog Bay. Australia? Copeia 2:370–377.

Bouchard SS, Bjorndal KA (2000) Sea turtles as Biological transporters of nutrients and Energy from Marine to Terrestrial ecosystems. Ecology 81:2305–2313.

Branco J, Hillesheim JC, Fracasso HAA, Christoffersen ML, Evangelista CL (2010) Bioecology of the ghost crab Ocypode quadrata (Fabricius, 1787) (Crustacea: Brachyura) compared with other intertidal crabs in the southwestern pacific. J Shellfish Res 2:503–512

Brown JR (2009) Factors affecting predation of Marine Turtle Eggs by raccoons and ghost crabs on Canaveral National Seashore, FL. University of Central Florida

Brown DE, Conover MR (2011) Effects of large-scale removal of coyotes on Pronghorn and Mule deer Productivity and abundance. J Wildl Manage 75:876–882.

Brown L, Macdonald DW (1995) Predation on green turtle Chelonia mydas nests by wild canids at Akyatan beach. Turk Biol Conserv 71:55–60.

Burger J, Gochfeld M (2014) Avian predation on olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) sea turtle eggs and hatchlings: avian opportunities, turtle avoidance, and human protection. Copeia 109–122.

Burrows M, Hoyle G (1973) The mechanism of Rapid running in the ghost crab, Ocypode ceratophthalma. J Exp Biol 58:327–349

Butler ZP, Wenger SJ, Pfaller JB, Dodd MG, Ondich BL, Coleman S, Gaskin JL, Hickey N, Kitchens-Hayes K, Vance RK, Williams KL (2020) Predation of loggerhead sea turtle eggs across Georgia’s barrier islands. Glob Ecol Conserv 23:e01139.

Casale P, Tucker AD (2017) Caretta caretta (amended version of 2015 assessment) supplementary material. IUCN Red List Threat Species 7

Casale P, Mazaris AD, Freggi D (2011) Estimation of age at maturity of loggerhead sea turtles Caretta caretta in the Mediterranean using length-frequency data. Endanger Species Res 13:123–129.

Caut S, Guirlet E, Jouquet P, Girondot M (2006) Influence of nest location and yolkless eggs on the hatching success of leatherback turtle clutches in French Guiana. Can J Zool 84:908–915.

Caut S, Angulo E, Courchamp F (2008) Dietary shift of an invasive predator: rats, seabirds and sea turtles. J Appl Ecol 45:428–437.

Article   PubMed   Google Scholar  

Ceriani SA, Brost B, Meylan AB, Meylan PA, Casale P (2021) Bias in sea turtle productivity estimates: error and factors involved. Mar Biol 168:1–10.

Ciuti S, Northrup JM, Muhly TB, Simi S, Musiani M, Pitt JA, Boyce MS (2012) Effects of humans on Behaviour of Wildlife Exceed those of Natural predators in a Landscape of Fear. PLoS ONE 7.

Clabough EBD, Kaplan E, Hermeyer D, Zimmerman T, Chamberlin J, Wantman S (2022) The secret life of baby turtles: a novel system to predict hatchling emergence, detect infertile nests, and remotely monitor sea turtle nest events. PLoS ONE 17:1–21.

Clusa M, Carreras C, Cardona L, Demetropoulos A, Margaritoulis D, Rees AF, Hamza AA, Khalil M, Levy Y, Turkozan O, Aguilar A, Pascual M (2018) Philopatry in loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta: beyond the gender paradigm. Mar Ecol 588:201–213

Conant TA (1991) Ghost crab predation on emergent sea turtles from relocated nests on a barrier island, North Carolina. Western Washington University

Davis GE, Whiting MC (1977) Loggerhead sea turtle nesting in Everglades National Park, Florida, USA. Herpetologica 33:18–28.

de Faria LAP, Martins AS, Pereira JA (2022) Green turtles nest survival: quantifying the hidden predation. Mar Environ Res 179:105666.

Article   CAS   PubMed   Google Scholar  

Department of Environment and Energy (2017) Recovery Plan for Marine Turtles in Australia [WWW Document]. URL (accessed 6.13.19)

Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (2020) Ningaloo turtle program annual report 2018–2019. Exmouth, WA

Department of Biodiversity Conservation and Attractions (2021) Ningaloo Turtle Program Annual Report 2020–2021. Exmouth, WA

Department of the Environment and Energy (2017) Recovery Plan for Marine turtles in Australia. Canberra https://doi org/0 642 21436 0

Engeman RM, Smith HT (2007) A history of dramatic successes at protecting endangered sea turtle nests by removing predators. Endanger Species Updat 24:113–116

Google Scholar  

Engeman R, Martin RE, Woolard J, Stahl M, Pelizza C, Duffiney A, Constantin B (2012) An ideal combination for marine turtle conservation: exceptional nesting season, with low nest predation resulting from effective low-cost predator management. Oryx 46:229–235.

Erb V, Wyneken J (2019) Nest-to-surf mortality of Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) hatchlings on Florida’s East Coast. Front Mar Sci 6:1–10.

Gammon M, Fossette S, McGrath G, Mitchell N (2020) A systematic review of metabolic heat in Sea Turtle nests and methods to Model its impact on hatching success. Front Ecol Evol 8.

Geller GA, Parker SL (2022) What are the primary cues used by mammalian predators to locate Freshwater Turtle nests? A critical review of the evidence. Front Ecol Evol 9:1–17.

Gese EM, Knowlton FF (2001) The role of predation in wildlife population dynamics. USDA Natl Wildl Res Cent - Staff Publ 542:20

Godfrey MH, Mrosovsky N (1997) Estimating the time between hatching of sea turtles and their emergence from the nest. Chelonian Conserv Biol 2:581–585

Greenslade P, Burbidge AA, Lynch AJJ (2013) Keeping Australia’s islands free of introduced rodents: the Barrow Island example. Pac Conserv Biol 19:284–294.

Hafemann DR, Hubbard JI (1969) On the rapid running of ghost crabs (Ocypode ceratophthalma). J Exp Zool 170:25–32

Hattingh K, Boelling P, Jacomy S, James A, Leonard A, Stuart J-M, Willaimson M (2010) Gnaraloo Day and Night Monitoring Final Report 2009/2010. Gnaraloo Station, WA

Hattingh K, Boureau M, Duffy M, Wall M (2011) Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program Gnaraloo Bay Rookery Final Report Program 2010/2011. Perth, WA

Hattingh K, Bosshard S, Concannon T, DeSirisy T, Shipp H, Soulsby M (2018) Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery. Perth, WA

Hattingh K, Nielsen K, Crossman C, Green A, Greenley A, Ilich D, Arnold J (2021) Gnaraloo Turtle Conservation Program Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area: Gnaraloo Bay Rookery & Gnaraloo Cape Farquhar Rookery, Report for Field season 2012/13.

Heithaus MR (2013) Predators, Prey, and the ecological role of Sea turtles. In: Wyneken J, Lohmann KJ, Musick JA (eds) The Biology of Sea turtles, vol 3. CRC Press, New York, pp 249–284

Hill RL, Green DJ (1971) Investigation of the damage by the crab Ocypode quadrata to the eggs of the green turtle Chelonia mydas. Sticht Natuurbehoud Suriname 2:11–13

Hitchins PM, Bourquin O, Hitchins S (2004) Nesting success of hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) on Cousine Island. Seychelles J Zool 264:383–389.

Ims RA (1990) On the Adaptive Value of Reproductive Synchrony as a predator-swamping strategy. Am Nat 136:485–498

Isaac NJB, Pocock MJO (2015) Bias and information in biological records. Biol J Linn Soc 115:522–531.

IUCN (2022) IUCN Red List of Threatened Species [WWW Document]. URL (accessed 8.21.22)

Keech MA, Lindberg MS, Boertje RD, Valkenburg P, Taras BD, Boudreau TA, Beckmen KB (2011) Effects of predator treatments, individual traits, and environment on moose survival in Alaska. J Wildl Manage 75:1361–1380.

Kratina P, LeCraw R, Ingram T, Anholt BR (2012) Stability and persistence of food webs with omnivory: Is there a general pattern? Ecosphere 3, 1–18

Lagarde F, Le Corre M, Lormeé H (2001) Species and sex-biased predation on Hatchling Green turtles by frigatebirds on Europa Island. Western Indian Ocean Condor 103:405–408.

Lei J, Booth DT (2017) Who are the important predators of sea turtle nests at Wreck. Rock Beach? PeerJ 5:e3515.

Lei J, Booth DT (2018) How do goannas find sea turtle nests? Austral Ecol 43:309–315.

Limpus CJ (1973) Avian predators of sea turtles in south- east Queensland rookeries. The Sunbird 4:45–51

Lingle S, Feldman A, Boyce MS, Wilson WF (2008) Prey Behaviour, Age-Dependent vulnerability, and Predation Rates. Am Nat 172.

Lucrezi S (2015) Ghost crab populations respond to changing morphodynamic and habitat properties on sandy beaches. Acta Oecol 62:18–31.

Lucrezi S, Schlacher T (2014) The Ecology of ghost crabs. Oceanogr Mar Biol An Annu Rev 201–256.

Madden D, Ballestero J, Calvo C, Carlson R, Christians E, Madden E (2008) Sea turtle nesting as a process influencing a sandy beach ecosystem. Biotropica 40:758–765.

Marco A, da Graça J, García-Cerdá R, Abella E, Freitas R (2015) Patterns and intensity of ghost crab predation on the nests of an important endangered loggerhead turtle population. J Exp Mar Bio Ecol 468:74–82.

Markovina K (2017) Ningaloo Turtle Program Annual Report 2016–2017. Exmouth, WA

Marlow NJ, Thomas ND, Williams AAE, Macmahon B, Lawson J, Hitchen Y, Angus J, Berry O (2015) Lethal 1080 baiting continues to reduce European Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) abundance after more than 25 years of continuous use in south-west Western Australia. Ecol Manag Restor 16:131–141.

Maros A, Louveaux A, Liot E, Marmet J, Girondot M (2005) Identifying characteristics of Scapteriscus spp. (Orthoptera: Gryllotalpidae) Apparent predators of Marine Turtle Eggs. Environ Entomol 34:1063–1070. (2005)034[1063:ICOSSO]2.0.CO;2

Martins S, Sierra L, Rodrigues E, Oñate-Casado J, Torres Galán I, Clarke LJ, Marco A (2021) Ecological drivers of the high predation of sea turtle hatchlings on the beach. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 668:97–106.

Miller JD (1999) Determining Clutch size and hatching success. In: Eckert KL, Bjorndal KA, Abreu-Grobois FA, Donnelly M (eds) Research and Management techniques for the conservation of Sea turtles. Prepared by IUCN/SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group, Washington, DC, pp 124–130

National Marine Fisheries Service & U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2008) Recovery Plan for the Northwest Atlantic Population of the Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta), second revision. Natl Mar Fish Serv 325

Nooren H, Claridge G (2002) Guidelines for turtle hatchery management. Ammerland, Germany

O’Connor JM, Limpus CJ, Hofmeister KM, Allen BL, Burnett SE (2017) Anti-predator meshing may provide greater protection for sea turtle nests than predator removal. PLoS ONE 12:1–11.

Oddie MAY, Coombes SM, Davy CM (2015) Investigation of cues used by predators to detect snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) nests. Can J Zool 93:299–305.

Peterson CH, Fegley SR, Voss CM, Marschhauser SR, VanDusen BM (2013) Conservation implications of density-dependent predation by ghost crabs on hatchling sea turtles running the gauntlet to the sea. Mar Biol 160:629–640.

Pimm SL, Lawton JH (1978) On feeding on more than one trophic level. Nature 275:542–544.

Rae C, Hyndes GA, Schlacher TA (2019) Trophic ecology of ghost crabs with diverse tastes: unwilling vegetarians. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 224:272–280.

Richards A, Mau R, Macgregor K, Bedford S (2005) Ningaloo Turtle Program Western Australia Annual Report 2004–2005. Perth

Rollinson N, Massey MD, Meron M, Leivesley JA (2019) A Low-Cost, efficient, and precise technique to Quantify Key Life cycle events in nests of Oviparous Reptiles. J Herpetol 53:302–309.

Roos S, Smart J, Gibbons DW, Wilson JD (2018) A review of predation as a limiting factor for bird populations in mesopredator-rich landscapes: a case study of the UK. Biol Rev 93:1915–1937.

Salo P, Korpimäki E, Banks P, Nordström M, Dickman CR (2007) Alien predators are more dangerous than native predators to prey populations. Proc. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 274, 1237–1243.

Santos RG, Pinheiro HT, Martins AS, Riul P, Bruno SC, Janzen FJ, Ioannou CC (2016) The anti-predator role of within-nest emergence synchrony in sea turtle hatchlings. Proc. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 283.

Schlacher TA, Lucrezi S, Peterson CH, Connolly RM, Olds AD, Althaus F, Hyndes GA, Maslo B, Gilby BL, Leon JX, Weston MA, Lastra M, Williams A, Schoeman DS (2016) Estimating animal populations and body sizes from burrows: Marine ecologists have their heads buried in the sand. J Sea Res 112:55–64.

Shamblin BM, Bolten AB, Abreu-grobois FA, Bjorndal KA, Cardona L, Nairn CJ, Nielsen JT, Dutton PH (2014) Geographic Patterns of Genetic Variation in a broadly distributed Marine Vertebrate: New insights into Loggerhead Turtle Stock structure from expanded mitochondrial DNA sequences. PLoS ONE 9.

Sinclair ARE, Pech RP, Dickman CR, Hik D, Mahon P, Newsome AE (1998) Predicting effects of Predation on Conservation of Endangered Prey. Conserv Biol 12:564–575.

Smith GC, Carlile N (1993) Food and Feeding Ecology of Breeding Silver Gulls (Larus novaehollandiae) in Urban Australia. Colon Waterbirds 16:9.

Stewart KR, Wyneken J (2004) Predation risk to loggerhead hatchlings at a high-density nesting beach in southeast Florida. Bull Mar Sci 74:325–335

Tedeschi JN, Mitchell NJ, Berry O, Whiting S, Meekan M, Kennington WJ (2014) Reconstructed paternal genotypes reveal variable rates of multiple paternity at three rookeries of loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta) in Western Australia. Aust J Zool 62:454–462.

Tedeschi JN, Kennington WJ, Tomkins JL, Berry O, Whiting S, Meekan MG, Mitchell NJ (2016) Heritable variation in heat shock gene expression: A potential mechanism for adaptation to thermal stress in embryos of sea turtles. Proc. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 283.

Tomillo PS, Paladino FV, Suss JS, Spotila JR (2010) Predation of Leatherback Turtle hatchlings during the crawl to the Water. Chelonian Conserv Biol 9:18–25.

Trocini S (2013) Health assessment and hatching success of two western Australian loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) populations. Murdoch University

Turra A, Gonçalves MAO, Denadai MR (2005) Spatial distribution of the ghost crab Ocypode quadrata in low-energy tide-dominated sandy beaches. J Nat Hist 39:2163–2177.

Underwood AJ, Fairweather PG (1989) Supply-side ecology and benthic marine assemblages. Trends Ecol Evol 4:16–20.

Valkenburg P, McNay ME, Dale BW (2004) Calf mortality and population growth in the Delta caribou herd after wolf control. Wildl Soc Bull 32:746–756.[0746:cmapgi];2

Vander Zanden HB, Bjorndal KA, Inglett PW, Bolten AB (2012) Marine-derived nutrients from Green Turtle nests subsidize Terrestrial Beach ecosystems. Biotropica 44:294–301.

Wakeling BF, Lee R, Brown D, Thompson R, Tluczek M, Weisenberger M (2009) The restoration of desert bighorn sheep in the Southwest, 1951–2007: factors influencing success. in: Desert Bighorn Council Transactions

Whiting SD, Whiting AU (2011) Predation by the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) on Sea Turtle adults, Eggs, and Hatchlings. Chelonian Conserv Biol 10:198–205.

Whitmore CP, Dutton PH (1985) Infertility, embryonic mortality and nest-site selection in leatherback and green sea turtles in Suriname. Biol Conserv 34:251–272.

Whytlaw PA, Edwards W, Congdon BC (2013) Marine turtle nest depredation by feral pigs (Sus scrofa) on the Western Cape York Peninsula Australia: implications for management. Wildl Res 40:377–384.

Witmer GW, Campbell EW, Boyd F (1998) Rat management for endangered species protection in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Proc. Vertebr. Pest Conf. 18.

Woolgar L, Trocini S, Mitchell N (2013) Key parameters describing temperature-dependent sex determination in the southernmost population of loggerhead sea turtles. J Exp Mar Bio Ecol 449:77–84.

Zárate P, Bjorndal KA, Parra M, Dutton PH, Seminoff JA, Bolten AB (2013) Hatching and emergence success in green turtle Chelonia mydas nests in the Galápagos Islands. Aquat Biol 19:217–229.

Download references


We thank field assistants Ken Okamitsu, Elena Faessler, Josie Kelly, Daisy Kermode, Georgia Bennett, Caitlyn O’Dea, Evan Webb, Akira Gaynor, Eva Robinson, Jess Billinghurst, Emily Lette, Samara Lette, Marta Sanchez, Samantha Lostrom and Bruna Calmanovici for field support. For logistical support we thank Dani Rob of the DBCA’s Parks and Wildlife Service – Exmouth District. For technical support in helping set up infrared cameras we thank Reece Anderson of Edith Cowan University’s Security & Traffic Services. We also thank Johnny Lo for statistical advice.

Research conducted by author Casper Avenant was supported by the Woodside funding agreement for the Ningaloo Turtle Program (NTP) 2018–2021. Additional funding for this research was provided by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation & Attractions, the Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment, the Ecological Society of Australia, Dell Technologies, and Edith Cowan University.

Author information

Authors and affiliations.

Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research, School of Science, Edith Cowan University, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, 6027, Western Australia

Casper Avenant & Glenn A. Hyndes

Biodiversity and Conservation Science, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, 17 Dick Perry Ave., Kensington, 6151, Western Australia

Scott Whiting & Sabrina Fossette

Parks and Wildlife Service – Exmouth District, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, 20 Nimitz St, Exmouth, 6707, Western Australia

Peter Barnes

You can also search for this author in PubMed   Google Scholar


All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by Casper Avenant. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Casper Avenant and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Casper Avenant .

Ethics declarations

Ethical approval.

All research protocols included in this paper have been approved by the Western Australia Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (licence number TFA 2019-0164-3, FO 25000181-3), the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (exemption number 3474, 250917621), and the Edith Cowan University Animal Ethics Committee (23080). The procedures comply with the Animal Welfare Act 2002 (Western Australia) and the requirements of the Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes .

Competing interests

All authors agree to this manuscript being submitted to the journal. The work by the authors outlined in this manuscript is all original research, and no aspect of this manuscript has previously been submitted to this or any other journal or published elsewhere. All funding sources have been acknowledged in the manuscript, and there is no conflict of interest for any of the authors.

Additional information

Communicated by James Lee.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary Material 1

Rights and permissions.

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article.

Avenant, C., Whiting, S., Fossette, S. et al. Extreme predation of eggs and hatchlings for loggerhead turtles in eastern Indian Ocean. Biodivers Conserv (2023).

Download citation

Received : 07 November 2022

Revised : 23 October 2023

Accepted : 24 October 2023

Published : 08 November 2023


Share this article

Anyone you share the following link with will be able to read this content:

Sorry, a shareable link is not currently available for this article.

Provided by the Springer Nature SharedIt content-sharing initiative

  • Loggerhead turtle


  • Find a journal
  • Publish with us

Fishkeeping Folks


Subscribe to Updates

Get the latest creative tips from fishkeepingfolks about fish keeping tips, aquariums and various aquarium tips and guides.

By signing up, you agree to the our terms and our Privacy Policy agreement.

Julidochromis Ornatus (Golden Julie) Care Guide

Synodontis multipunctatus – the cuckoo squeaker, variatus platy (xiphophorus variatus) care guide.

Fishkeeping Folks

Atlantic Ghost Crab Facts (Ocypode Quadrata)

Last updated on August 27th, 2022 at 06:27 pm

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?

Atlantic 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

Atlantic ghost crab

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

Atlantic ghost crab

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

Atlantic ghost crab

  • 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.

Related Posts

Wild salmon fish, what are phytoplankton 4 amazing facts to know, what is molting definition, purpose, and process.

Type above and press Enter to search. Press Esc to cancel.

ghost crab with eggs

ghost crab with eggs

Ghost Crab| All You Need To Know

The Atlantic ghost crab is crustaceans with sand-colored white claws. Ghost crabs live on the Coastal beaches in the Chesapeake from spring to autumn.

They are named because of the shape and size of their body. Ghost Crabs can move amazingly quickly, and fewer legs enable them to move faster. They are decapods and use only eight legs for locomotion. While running faster, the first two pairs help them to walk more quickly.

Ghost crabs are semiterrestrial but lay eggs in water and feel the need to keep their gills moist. They can drown if they are living in water too. Ghost crabs can change their color, which saves them from predators.

To know more about Ghost crabs, you must read this article.

Ghost crab classification and scientific name:

Ghost crabs are related to the subfamily “Ocypodinae .”Ocypodinae derives from the Greek word “swift-footed,” which shows how surprisingly quickly this crab can scuttle over the sand. 


The Atlantic ghost crabs have a square-shaped and semi-translucent shell of about up to three inches. Male crabs are more prominent as compared to females. These crabs can change their color according to their surroundings.

Young ghost crabs are darker than adults, and their shell color is gray and brown. Some crab’s claws have ridges that help the animals to produce sounds. These crabs have ten legs; eight are walking and one pair of white feet. Their club-shaped eyestalk can rotate about 360 degrees.

Some species of ghost crabs have eyestalks like horns and stiles.

Ghost crabs are omnivores and eat insects, marine arthropods, filter feeders, and the hatchlings of loggerhead turtles. They also eat vegetables and detritus.

Ghost crabs Distribution, Population, and Habitat:

The population of ghost crabs was widely distributed in the world till 2021, but now it is decreasing because of climate changes and human activities. Ghost crabs live near warm water on the Coast of Florida, India, and worldwide. These semi-terrestrial crabs burrow in sand and are found in the zone between low and high ocean tides.

There are 21 species worldwide, but their habitat is disturbed due to human activities.

Reproduction and life cycle:

Ghost crabs are ready to mate after one year of birth and mate all over the year. But there are some species in which female crabs ovulate during spring and once more in summer.

There is a difference between ghost crabs and crabs species ; the female ghost crab is enabled for mating when their shell gets harder after molting. Male crabs make sounds to attract females for mating and challenging other male crabs.

Fertilization is internal, and mating occurs near the male’s burrow. The sperms of males come in a fluid that solidifies and forms a plug in the female to ensure that a rival crab does not fertilize the eggs.

The female stores sperms until sperms fertilize the eggs. Until the female carries eggs, she is called berried. The eggs in the female body remain hydrated, and they swim upward for this purpose.

When the crab larvae hatched, the female oscillated in water. They are small in this phase, becoming part of the zooplankton and swimming across the oceanic tides.

The baby ghost crabs molt five times before reaching the megalopa stage. It stays in this phase for a month. If it survives after the first molt, it quits the sea for land. Their life span is about three years.

Can you eat ghost crabs?

Yes, ghost crabs are not poisonous and safe to eat. These crabs are small and may have a limited amount of meat. 

If you are catching them and want to eat them, you should ensure they are boiled for about 20 minutes because some parasites are present in them, which may be harmful.

Like other crabs , you should remove their shell before eating. When you have removed the outer layer, you should separate the claws from the body. Use crackers to reach the crab’s meat.

How can you cook ghost crabs safely?

When you buy ghost crabs;

  • The first step is cleaning.
  • Remove its outer shell.
  • Wash them carefully and clean all the dirty parts. 
  • When it looks clean, put them into the pot and boil them for 20 minutes. Time may increase or decrease depending on the number of crabs.

When they boil, you can eat them as you like. You can add seasoning flavors to enhance its taste.

Can ghost crabs swim?

Ghost crabs cannot swim because they are terrestrial. They can survive underwater and live for a limited time. If they remain in the water, they will be drowned. They move into the water to wet and fill the water and oxygen in their gills.

Surprising benefits of ghost crabs:

Ghost crabs are edible and have remarkable effects on health. Some of these are;

Promotes healthy teeth and bone

As crabs have calcium and magnesium, they help develop healthy teeth and bones. It benefits children and adults and prevents osteomalacia and rickets. Their meat helps in bone development and makes them stronger.

Prevents cancer

Studies reveal that carbs meat prevents cancer because it contains selenium. Selenium is an antioxidant and clean carcinogenic material like arsenic and cadmium from the body responsible for cancer.

Manage blood sugar levels

Crabs meat is enriched with chromium, which helps to decrease insulin resistance. It minimizes the blood glucose level. Chromium allows the utilization of insulin and protects a man from diabetes.

Ideal for pregnant women

Nutritionists suggest that crab meat is ideal for pregnant women but in moderate quantity. It is a high source of vitamin B and omega-3 fatty acids, so it is recommended during pregnancy. 

Pregnant women can safely cook them and should remove parasites and bacteria that may harm a newborn baby.


Ghost crabs are tiny and beautiful creatures. Ghost crabs are present on the tropical beaches of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. They are easy to cook and delicious. But they do not have much meat in them. 

If you want to keep them as pets, it would be tough for you because they need to wet their gills. So it is good to leave them in the wild.

2 thoughts on “Ghost Crab| All You Need To Know”

  • Pingback: Sand Crab| All You Need To Know -
  • Pingback: Rock Crabs| All You Need To Know -

Leave a Comment Cancel reply

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

  • "Ports of Call"
  • Major Public Venues
  • Testimonials
  • Marine Biology 101
  • Marine Biological Sciences Glossary
  • Synopsis of Oceanography & Marine Biology
  • History of Oceanography & Marine Biology
  • Ocean Exploration
  • What is Marine Biology?
  • So you what to become a Marine Biologist!
  • Becoming a Marine Biologist
  • Marine Biology, Oceanography & Ocean Engineering
  • The Future a.k.a. Marine Biological Sciences
  • His Legacy…………..
  • Dr. Michael A. Bigg Photos
  • A Tribute to the Man Who Started It All
  • "Robson Bight-Michael Bigg" Ecological Reserve
  • The First Captive Killer Whale – A Changing Attitude
  • "Transient" Killer Whales a species?
  • Telegraph Cove, B.C.
  • His Legacy……………
  • Jacques-Yves Cousteau Photos
  • Invention of the Aqualung
  • His Legacy……………..
  • His Final Adventure………………
  • Photos & Quotes
  • Animations & Icons
  • Coral Reefs
  • Currents, Gyres & Eddies
  • Differences between Skates, Chimaeras & Rays
  • Differences between Whales, Dolphins & Porpoises
  • Earth’s Water in Motion
  • Marine Animal Records
  • Ocean Depths
  • Our Water Planet
  • Prehistoric Marine Predators
  • Sargasso Sea
  • Top 10 Most Dangerous Sharks
  • What is a Necropsy?
  • What is Red Tide?
  • World of Cetaceans
  • World of Elasmobranchs
  • World of Pinnipeds
  • World of Sharks
  • World of Whales


“Ocypode ceratophthalmus”

Ghost Crabs are also known as the Sand Crab, White Crab and Mole Crab. They are tiny animals that are mainly terrestrial and live in elaborate burrows.  Ghost Crabs live their entire adult life on beaches in tropical & sub-tropical regions around the world. They prefer quiet beaches and forage for food at night when they are less apt to be seen by predators. Ghost Crabs are found along beaches from Rhode Island south to Brazil. Unlike crabs that live in the water, they only need to wet their gills. These crabs like to brace themselves in the sand and let the waves wash over their bodies to wet their gills. They also have hairs on the base of their legs that wicks up water from damp sand to wet their gills. This animal has a pale body color that is similar to the color of sand. This makes it nearly invisible when it crawls about over sand. It is because of this apparent invisibility that the crab has got its unique name. The name is also suggestive of the fact that the activities of this creature are mainly restricted to night. Ghost Crabs are omnivores because they eat both meat & vegetable matter. They eat all kinds of food they find on the beaches. Their diet includes vegetation and other debris washed in by the tides. They also feed on mole crabs, clams and the eggs of Loggerhead Sea Turtles. Predators of these tiny crustaceans include Raccoons, shorebirds and gulls. Sand Crabs hide in their burrows during hot sunny days. They stay in the burrows for 2 reasons during the day. They stay inside their burrows during the day when the hot sun heats up the beaches. It is also much harder for predators to see the tiny crabs at night than it is during daylight hours. Ghost Crabs all live in burrows that have a small opening about the size of a quarter. They burrow down into the sand often creating an elaborate tunnel system underground. Their tunnels often go down 4 feet into the sand with side branches. Young Ghost Crabs create burrows close to the water’s edge while older adults often create burrows hundreds of feet from the edge of the waves.

Ghost Crabs mate all year long and the males prefer to mate near their burrow holes. During the mating time with a female, the male secretes a fluid that hardens & prevents rival male’s sperm from reaching the ova of the female. The female carries the fertilized eggs under their bodies until they are ready to hatch. She releases the eggs into the water where the larvae grow & develop into young crabs before coming ashore to live the rest of their lives. The female retreats to the ocean while laying eggs. The eggs turn into marine larvae. This crustacean communicates through sounds with other members of its family. The creature has a unique mechanism on its right claw known as a Stridulating organ. When it strokes this against the bottom of its leg, a squeaky noise is produced. A crab produces this noise to warn other Ghost Crabs not to enter its burrow. Male crabs also use this sound to attract female mates. Ocypoda is the Latin name for Ghost Crabs and means “swift-footed”. T his animal has 5 pairs of legs. The first pair is called Chelipeds and is shaped like claws. The legs when jointly used, can make crabs move in any direction whether forward, backward or sideways. In male Ghost Crabs, one claw is slightly larger than the other. The adult’s carapace (shell) is usually about 2 inches long. Young crabs are much darker with a mottled gray or brown shell. Older adults have shells that are square-shaped & semi-transparent. The males are usually larger than the females and their shells can grow up to 3 inches long. With increasing maturity, the Ghost Crab begins to lose its external skeleton. It comes off at a point, only to be replaced by a new, slightly larger shell. The new shell takes some time to harden and until that happens, the Ghost Crab remains vulnerable. They have eye stalks that are club shaped. The crabs can rotate the eye stalks 360 degrees looking for predators & food. The large eyes of the Ghost Crab gives them a wide field of vision. The eyesight of these creatures is very good. This helps them spot predators very quickly and find out any other threats.

  • Alligator Snapping Turtle
  • American Alligator
  • Arrow Squid
  • Atlantic Lobster
  • Beaked Sea Snake
  • Belcher’s Sea Snake
  • Black Caiman
  • Black-banded Sea Krait
  • Blue Button Jelly
  • Blue-ringed Octopus
  • Box Sea Jelly
  • Caribbean Reef Squid
  • Chambered Nautilus
  • Cleaner Shrimp
  • Coconut Crab
  • Colossal Squid
  • Common Octopus
  • Dungeness Crab
  • Fiddler Crab
  • Flatback Sea Turtle
  • Geoduck Clam
  • Giant Otter
  • Giant Pacific Octopus
  • Giant Sea Spider
  • Giant Squid
  • Giant Tube Worm
  • Green Sea Turtle
  • Hawaiian Bobtail Squid
  • Hawksbill Sea Turtle
  • Hermit Crab
  • Horseshoe Crab
  • Humboldt Squid
  • Immortal Sea Jelly
  • Irukandji Sea Jelly
  • Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
  • Leatherback Sea Turtle
  • Lion’s Mane Sea Jelly
  • Loggerhead Sea Turtle
  • Mantis Shrimp
  • Marine Iguana
  • Marine Otter
  • Mata Mata Turtle
  • Moon Sea Jelly
  • Mugger Crocodile
  • Nile Crocodile
  • Nomura’s Sea Jelly
  • Ocean Quahog
  • Olive Ridley Sea Turtle
  • Olive Sea Snake
  • Pacific Sea Otter
  • Portuguese Man-of-War Sea Jelly
  • Sally Lightfoot Crab
  • Saltwater Crocodile
  • Sand Dollar
  • Sea Anemone
  • Sea Cucumber
  • Snapping Turtle
  • Spiny Lobster
  • Vampire Squid
  • Yellow-bellied Sea Snake

This website contains several marine wildlife & necropsy photos that may be disturbing to young children!

Smithsonian Ocean

Ghost crab close up.

Ghost crabs are often seen scuttling quickly along beaches, and can be difficult to photograph in the wild.  They are common in Moorea where this specimen was collected.

Ghost crabs are often seen scuttling quickly along beaches at night, when they emerge from their burrows to feed, and can be difficult to photograph in the wild. They are common in Moorea, an island in the Pacific Ocean, where this specimen was collected. More about the Moorea can be found in the article "Scientists Catalog Life on the Island of Moorea . "

  • Make Way for Whales
  • Sharks & Rays
  • Invertebrates
  • Plants & Algae
  • Coral Reefs
  • Coasts & Shallow Water
  • Census of Marine Life
  • Tides & Currents
  • Waves, Storms & Tsunamis
  • The Seafloor
  • Temperature & Chemistry
  • Ancient Seas
  • Extinctions
  • The Anthropocene
  • Habitat Destruction
  • Invasive Species
  • Acidification
  • Climate Change
  • Gulf Oil Spill
  • Solutions & Success Stories
  • Get Involved
  • Books, Film & The Arts
  • Exploration
  • History & Cultures
  • At The Museum

Search Smithsonian Ocean


ghost crab with eggs

Finding Fun in Search of Nature

Summer is here.

In every season, we are excited to be

"Finding Fun in Search of Nature"

Experience the wonders of the night with Ghost Crab Quest.  

We are an ecotourism company based on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Amazed by the beauty of these fragile barrier islands, Ghost Crab Quest is committed to sharing and exploring its wonders day and night.  While the star of the show is the mighty Atlantic Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata), we offer educational activities that will introduce our guests to astronomy, bird watching, outrageous ocean creatures and pirate history.  We love what we do, and hope you join us in "Finding Fun in Search of Nature."

THANK YOU ( for 3rd year in a row ) for HELPING us become one of THE TOP 10 % of attractions WORLDWIDE

Click on the "our quests" tab for more info or...   ,   summer   fun for all   scavenger hunt packages delivere d right to you.

If you missed it last season, DON'T in 2023. We've hand-crafted real solid wood treasure chests, filled them with gifts from  Outer Banks Box  and developed a unique activity for the whole family to easily enjoy.

 Easier than a walk on the beach, our scavenger hunts include : 

Select from two educational themes:  

Easy-to-follow instructions

Educational clues encouraging

       teamwork & creative thinking

Treasures for kids !! AND !! adults

Delivery to your beach home

Scallywag Scavenger Hunt 


Pirates, Pirates, and more Pirates!  This is sure to get the "Mateys" saying ARRRGGGGHHH!!!

Outrageous Ocean Scavenger Hunt 

Unravel the mysteries of what lies beneath our oceans.  The crew will dive right in and be soaked with fun.  


Summer is Here

Summer on the Outer Banks of North Carolina is well... amazing! Sunny days, crystal clear water, gentle waves, warm winds and magical nights are ours the the time being.  The Ghost Crabs are out of their holes, the stars and planets are putting on a show and resident birds are out in full effect.  There's no better way to experience the natural beauty of Summer than spending a night, or day, with Ghost Crab Quest.  

All Guts!!

Quests Starting at  $15 

Book now for your 2023 vacation.


  • PRO Courses Guides New Tech Help Pro Expert Videos About wikiHow Pro Upgrade Sign In
  • EDIT Edit this Article
  • EXPLORE Tech Help Pro About Us Random Article Quizzes Request a New Article Community Dashboard This Or That Game Popular Categories Arts and Entertainment Artwork Books Movies Computers and Electronics Computers Phone Skills Technology Hacks Health Men's Health Mental Health Women's Health Relationships Dating Love Relationship Issues Hobbies and Crafts Crafts Drawing Games Education & Communication Communication Skills Personal Development Studying Personal Care and Style Fashion Hair Care Personal Hygiene Youth Personal Care School Stuff Dating All Categories Arts and Entertainment Finance and Business Home and Garden Relationship Quizzes Cars & Other Vehicles Food and Entertaining Personal Care and Style Sports and Fitness Computers and Electronics Health Pets and Animals Travel Education & Communication Hobbies and Crafts Philosophy and Religion Work World Family Life Holidays and Traditions Relationships Youth
  • Browse Articles
  • Learn Something New
  • Quizzes Hot
  • This Or That Game New
  • Train Your Brain
  • Explore More
  • Support wikiHow
  • About wikiHow
  • Log in / Sign up
  • Pets and Animals
  • Crustaceans

How to Catch a Ghost Crab

Last Updated: September 24, 2023 Approved

This article was co-authored by wikiHow Staff . Our trained team of editors and researchers validate articles for accuracy and comprehensiveness. wikiHow's Content Management Team carefully monitors the work from our editorial staff to ensure that each article is backed by trusted research and meets our high quality standards. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 89% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 77,639 times. Learn more...

Hunting ghost crabs can be a wonderful activity for the whole family. It's free, it's fun, and all you really need is a beach, a quiet night, and a flashlight. Ghost crabs are semi-terrestrial crabs of the subfamily ocypodinae. They are tiny and if they get to pinch you while trying to catch them, it won't hurt that much. Plus, chasing them gives you a fun excuse to spend time on the beach at night. By following a few key tips, you can maximize your success at ghost crab catching. Or if you're feeling extra crafty, you can fashion a ghost crab trap.

Hunting your Crab

Step 1 Find a beach where ghost crabs live.

Getting Better Results

Step 1 Wear dark clothing.

Building a Trap

Step 1 Gather supplies.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

Things You'll Need

  • Materials for a trap (optional)
  • Dark clothing (optional)

You Might Also Like

Keep Blue Crabs Alive

  • ↑
  • ↑
  • ↑

About This Article

wikiHow Staff

If you want to catch ghost crabs, visit the beach after sunset as they're nocturnal. Also, wear dark clothing so the crabs find it harder to spot you. When you arrive, scan the beach with your flashlight for movement. Once you spot a ghost crab, which is small and sandy-colored, shine your light directly at it to make it stand still. Then, approach the crab slowly, scoop it up with your net, and put it in a bucket. At the end of your hunt, remember to release the crabs you've caught back into the wild so they can run free. For tips on how to find the best beaches for ghost crabs and how to build a trap to catch them, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

  • Send fan mail to authors

Reader Success Stories

Holly Black

Holly Black

Jul 15, 2017

Did this article help you?

ghost crab with eggs

Feb 9, 2018

Am I a Narcissist or an Empath Quiz

Featured Articles

23 Best Practices to Become More Humble

Trending Articles

What’s the Most Common Zodiac Sign?

Watch Articles

Carve Turkey Breast

  • Terms of Use
  • Privacy Policy
  • Do Not Sell or Share My Info
  • Not Selling Info

Don’t miss out! Sign up for

wikiHow’s newsletter


  1. Atlantic Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata) female with egg cluster tucked

    ghost crab with eggs

  2. Ghost Crabs: Characteristics, anatomy and habitat

    ghost crab with eggs

  3. Photos: #ghostcrabfieldguide

    ghost crab with eggs

  4. Ghost Crab eating a sea turtle hatchling : r/HardcoreNature

    ghost crab with eggs

  5. Pallid ghost crab

    ghost crab with eggs

  6. Atlantic Ghost Crab

    ghost crab with eggs


  1. Ghost crab #shorts

  2. crab eggs Borneo voyager

  3. Fisherman Dagang boil breaded crab, ghost crab, octopu, lobster, conch with beer#yummy #seafoodboil

  4. Horned Ghost crab ambush

  5. Cooking Blue claw crab eggs #crab #6ix9ine

  6. Atlantic ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata #caribbean #crab


  1. Ghost crab

    Description Exophthalmy in the painted ghost crab ( Ocypode gaudichaudii) Most ghost crabs have pale-colored bodies that blend in well with the sand, [3] though they are capable of gradually changing body coloration to match their environments and the time of day.

  2. Ghost Crab Animal Facts

    Prey Baby turtles, mole crabs and other small arthropods, mollusks, insects Group Behavior Solitary Fun Fact Their eyestalks, which are sometimes horned, can swivel 360 degrees Estimated Population Size Hundreds of thousands, at least. Biggest Threat Habitat destruction, climate change, pollution

  3. Atlantic Ghost Crab

    Feeding Ghost crabs are omnivorous, feeding on insects, filter-feeders (like clams and mole crabs) and the eggs and hatchlings of loggerhead turtles. They will also scavenge for vegetation and detritus. Predators Common predators include raccoons, shorebirds and gulls.

  4. ADW: Ocypode quadrata: INFORMATION

    Ge­o­graphic Range The range of Ocy­pode quadrata ex­tends from Block Is­land, Rhode Is­land to Santa Cata­rina, Brazil. It has also been found in Bermuda, and lar­vae have been found as far north as Woods Hole, MA, how­ever no adults have been found at this lat­i­tude.

  5. Golden ghost crab

    Along with the red fox ( Vulpes vulpes ), they are significant as one of the main predators of eggs and hatchlings of Western Australian sea turtles, particularly the Endangered loggerhead sea turtle ( Caretta caretta) which has one of the largest rookeries in the region. Classification

  6. Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata): Camouflaged Cruncher

    Females with egg masses, however, need to frequently enter the water to keep the eggs wet. Although Ghost Crabs cannot swim, the females may turn upside down in the water to ventilate the egg mass which is carried under her tail. The babies begin life in the water, and then become amphibious temporially.

  7. Ghost Crabs… raiders of the night

    Females may produce eggs in their second year but rarely live to do the same the third year. They are quite social with other crabs communicating, like their fiddler crab cousins, with body postures and claw movements.

  8. Atlantic Ghost Crab

    Atlantic Ghost Crabs are very active and can often be seen dashing into the retreating surf to wet their gills or to grab scraps of food (" Ocypode " means "swift-footed"), although they will drown if kept submerged. Young crabs burrow just above the intertidal zone, but adults dig their burrows higher up, sometimes even behind the forward dunes.

  9. Ghost Crab

    Info Ghost Crab Last updated: April 17, 2020 Was this page helpful? No An official form of the United States government. Provided by Touchpoints Contact Info Mailing Address: 1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway Gulf Breeze, FL 32563 Contact Us

  10. Ghost Crabs

    This crab comes equipped with two strong claws of unequal size, each tipped with sharp pincers. They use these appendages to crush their prey before eating it. This also allows them to go after larger food items such as shorebird eggs and chicks and sea turtle eggs and hatchlings. (More sea turtle eggs are eaten by ghost crabs on a seasonal ...

  11. Ghost crab predation of loggerhead turtle eggs across thermal habitats

    They are long-lived and late maturing ectothermic organisms that depend on sandy beaches to lay their clutches of eggs, which incubate for approximately two months, at the mercy of environmental conditions (Ackerman, 1997 ).

  12. Patterns and intensity of ghost crab predation on the nests of an

    Ghost crabs kill half of the eggs of an important and endangered loggerhead rookery. • Most of predation occurs at the end of the incubation period. • Predation rate is lower when predators are of larger size. • Females do not avoid nesting on beaches with higher predation risk. •

  13. Patterns and intensity of ghost crab predation on the nests of an

    One of the main causes of egg mortality was predation by ghost crabs (Ocypode cursor) that stole an average of 33 eggs per nest. No other egg predator was observed during the study. In an intensive field experiment, the egg mortality for non-protected nests was 82% and ghost crabs predated an average of 50% of the total number of eggs.

  14. Exploring the Mysterious World of Ghost Crabs

    Ghost crabs are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of small organisms such as insects, mollusks, and plant matter that washes ashore. ... Once a female selects a mate, they engage in intricate mating behavior before the female carries a clutch of eggs under her abdomen. After an incubation period, the female releases the eggs into the ocean ...

  15. Extreme predation of eggs and hatchlings for loggerhead turtles in

    Understanding predator-prey interactions at the vulnerable egg and hatchling stage of sea turtles is crucial to effectively manage these threatened marine species. Our research quantified ghost crab predation on loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta at Gnaraloo Bay and Bungelup Beach, two of the four principal nesting sites for this species in the Southeast Indian Ocean. We counted ghost crab ...

  16. Atlantic Ghost Crab Facts (Ocypode Quadrata)

    Last updated on August 27th, 2022 at 06:27 pm 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.

  17. Ghost Crab| All You Need To Know

    January 23, 2023 by ALI RAZA The Atlantic ghost crab is crustaceans with sand-colored white claws. Ghost crabs live on the Coastal beaches in the Chesapeake from spring to autumn. They are named because of the shape and size of their body. Ghost Crabs can move amazingly quickly, and fewer legs enable them to move faster.

  18. Presence of ghost crabs and piping plover nesting success

    The native ghost crab (Ocypode quadrata) preys on plover eggs and chicks, but the effect of ghost crab predation on plover productivity has not been established. We used daily records of nest survival collected at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina, USA from 2008 to 2015 to test a hypothesized negative

  19. Ghost Crab

    Ghost Crabs are also known as the Sand Crab, White Crab and Mole Crab. They are tiny animals that are mainly terrestrial and live in elaborate burrows. ... She releases the eggs into the water where the larvae grow & develop into young crabs before coming ashore to live the rest of their lives. The female retreats to the ocean while laying eggs ...

  20. Ghost crab predation of loggerhead turtle eggs across thermal habitats

    Ghost crab predation was variable between beaches, but generally, at the warmer dark sand beaches, clutch mortality was mostly caused by ghost crab predation ... In Cabo Verde, the main sea turtle egg and hatchling predator is the ghost crab Ocypode cursor (Marco et al., 2011, Marco et al., 2015). Ghost crabs are ectothermic organisms highly ...

  21. Ghost Crab Close Up

    Ghost Crab Close Up. Ghost crabs are often seen scuttling quickly along beaches at night, when they emerge from their burrows to feed, and can be difficult to photograph in the wild. They are common in Moorea, an island in the Pacific Ocean, where this specimen was collected. More about the Moorea can be found in the article "Scientists Catalog ...

  22. Ghost Crabbing Outer Banks

    Experience the wonders of the night with Ghost Crab Quest. We are an ecotourism company based on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Amazed by the beauty of these fragile barrier islands, Ghost Crab Quest is committed to sharing and exploring its wonders day and night. While the star of the show is the mighty Atlantic Ghost Crab (Ocypode ...

  23. 3 Ways to Catch a Ghost Crab

    Find a beach where ghost crabs live. Ghost crabs are common shore crabs in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. They inhabit deep burrows in the inter-tidal zone. They are particularly popular on the Outer Banks beaches of North Carolina (and ghost crab hunting is a popular activity there), but they can be found on coastal ...