Ghost Crabs

In many costal areas throughout the World, various species of Ghost Crab (Ocypode spp.) can be found haunting sandy beaches at low tide. I observed these Ghost Crabs on the shore of the Pacific Ocean in Drake Bay, Costa Rica.

Ghost Crab (Ocypode sp.) on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica

These Ghost Crabs had holes in the moist sand below the high tide line, and they emerged from them at low tide to hunt and scavenge for bits of food (plant and animal debris, dead or stranded sea creatures, etc.) washed up onto the beach.

Ghost Crab (Ocypode sp.) hole on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica

These crabs are called Ghost Crabs because of their uncanny ability to rapidly disappear from sight. Ghost Crabs can scuttle sideways across the damp sand at speeds of up to 10 mph (16 kph) and disappear down their holes in the sand. They then hide in the hole for a few moments before peeking back out to see if the coast is clear.

Along with their characteristic behavior and habitat, Ghost Crabs can also be identified by their tall, stalked, periscope-like eyes that give them a full 360 degree field of vision, which allows these speedy crabs to quickly spot both potential predators and scavenging opportunities.

Ghost Crab (Ocypode sp.) on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica

Ghost Crabs come in various colors, and while many have a sand-like coloration, all of the Ghost Crabs that I saw in Costa Rica were a brilliant (and conspicuous) orange or red.