Ghost crab (Ocypode quadrata) on beach at Rooi Fluit
Adult ghost crabs are greyish or the colour of straw, and approximately 5 centimetres (2 in) wide at maturity. They must return to water periodically in order to moisten their gills but are otherwise terrestrial. Their stalked compound eyes can swivel to give them 360° vision. Young crabs are cryptically coloured to blend in with their sandy habitat.
Ghost crabs live in burrows in sand above the strandline. Older individuals dig their burrows further from the sea, some starting as much as 400 metres (0.25 mi) inland. Burrows can be up to 1.3 metres (4 ft 3 in) deep, and can be closed off with sand during hot periods. Ghost crabs are more active at night than in the day time, and they are omnivore, eating clams, insects, plant material, detritus and even other crabs.
Sandy beaches have seen a decrease in the abundance of ghost crabs due to human behavior. Ghost crabs are negatively impacted by human and vehicle trampling which results in direct crushing of crabs as well as indirect damage such as compression of sediment which reduces habitat suitability, interference with reproductive behaviors, reduction in food supply, and light pollution
Photo credit: Henkjan Kevit (SHAPE/DCNA)
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