I’ve posted a few photos of Painted Ghost Crabs over the past two years and have finally gotten around to finishing up this 12-image gallery of ocypode gaudichaudii, photos that I shot in the Pacific coast town of Zorritos, Peru in May of 2013.
Common on Pacific beaches from El Salvador to Chile, and on the Galapagos Islands, they’re fascinating to watch as they scurry about in the hour or two before and during sunset. Their rhythmic movement is the yin to the ocean’s waves yang – as they run in large numbers, which I tried to capture in the last photo below, it almost appears as though the beach is moving.
They’re very fast, thus the name; you won’t get too close before they vanish into their network of burrows. At least I couldn’t. 🙂 In fact, they’re the fastest crustaceans on land with an acute sense of sight, smell and sound.
According to “The Ecology of Ghost Crabs”, “ghost crabs can visually detect large objects, such as a human, from a distance of at least 45 meters and the mobility of the eyestalks creates a 360° field of view”.
Very cool eyestalks. Just the fact that things called eyestalks exist in the natural world is pretty cool, too.
As seen here, they range in color from crimson red to a bright orange. It’s important to note however that the color variance here is also due to the light conditions under which the photos were taken. They were shot on two consecutive days, the first in early evening under cloudy and overcast conditions and the second under midday mostly clear skies.
I also included a shot where one crab seems to be investigating the corpse of what I believe was a cormorant. Several walked nearby, scoped out the scene for a about a minute, then left without scavenging a thing.
Oh, and there’s also a shot with the obligatory trash on the beach. Plastic, of course. Because that’s what lines most of the world’s beaches.
Further Reading? A good place to start is “The Ecology of Ghost Crabs” a 65-page page scholarly introduction published in Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review, 2014. (PDF)