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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 .

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  • 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 October 02, 2023 at

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all animal facts

  • May 5, 2022

The ghost crab is perhaps one of the most interesting and unusual creatures on the beach. These crabs are easily identified by their pale coloring and translucent shell, which makes them almost invisible against the sand. What makes these crabs really interesting, however, is their behavior. Ghost crabs are known for being very playful and active, and they are always exploring their surroundings. They are also quite fearless, and will approach people if they feel like it. If you’re lucky enough to see a ghost crab on the beach, make sure to take a close look at its unique personality!

Ghost Crab

Ghost Crab Description

Ghost crabs are a type of crab that is found on beaches around the world. They get their name from their ability to blend in with the sand , making them very hard to see. Ghost crabs are nocturnal creatures and spend most of their time in burrows that they dig in the sand. These burrows can be up to 3 feet deep and 6 feet wide . During the day, ghost crabs will close the entrance to their burrow with sand to stay cool and avoid predators. Ghost crabs are opportunistic eaters and will eat just about anything they can find, including insects , small animals, and even other crabs. Ghost crabs are also known for their ability to run very fast. Ghost crabs are interesting creatures that are fun to watch and learn about.

Ghost Crab Habitat

Ghost crabs are a type of crab that lives in the sand on beaches . They get their name from their ability to blend in with the sand and from their nocturnal habits. Ghost crabs are not very social and live alone in burrows that they dig themselves. The Ghost Crab’s diet consists mostly of small invertebrates that live on the beach, such as bugs and worms. Ghost crabs also like to eat vegetables and sometimes other crabs. Ghost crabs are important to the ecosystem because they help to keep the beach clean by eating dead animals and plants. Ghost crabs are also an important food source for other animals, such as birds . Ghost crabs are threatened by habitat loss due to coastal development, pollution, and climate change.

Ghost Crab Diet

Ghost crabs are opportunistic feeders and will consume a variety of food items. The diet of ghost crabs is primarily determined by what is available in their local environment. Ghost crabs have been known to eat small mammals , reptiles , birds , carrion , and even other Ghost crabs . Ghost crabs will also scavenge for food items such as seaweed , clams , and dead fish . In addition to their scavenging activities, Ghost crabs are also able to capture live prey . Live prey items that have been identified in the diet of Ghost crabs include small insects, snails, and crabs. Overall, the Ghost crab diet is quite variable and dependent on what is available in their local environment.

Ghost Crab Size

Ghost crabs are small crabs that range in size from about 2 to 3 inches long . They are named for their pale, translucent shell , which makes them look like ghosts. Ghost crabs are found on beaches around the world, where they burrow into the sand to make their home. They are scavengers and will eat just about anything they can find, including dead fish, seaweed, and even other ghost crabs. Ghost crabs are also known for their agility and speed. They can run up to 9 miles per hour, making them one of the fastest animals on the beach. When they feel threatened, they will sometimes play dead to avoid being eaten by predators. Ghost crabs are fascinating creatures that play an important role on the beach ecosystem.

Ghost Crab Image

Ghost Crab Lifespan

Ghost crabs are one of the most interesting creatures on the beach. These nocturnal animals are well known for their unique appearance, as well as their fleet feet. Ghost crabs are also relatively short-lived creatures , with most individuals only living for 2-3 years . Despite their relatively short lifespan, ghost crabs play an important role in the ecosystem of the beach. Ghost crabs are opportunistic eaters, and their diet helps to keep the population of other animals in check. In addition, ghost crabs help to Aerate the sand and keep the beach clean. As a result, Ghost crabs play an important role in the health of the beach ecosystem despite their short lifespan.

Ghost Crab Behavior

Ghost Crabs are unique creatures, known for their nocturnal habits and their ability to burrow quickly into the sand. These crustaceans are also highly adaptable , able to live in a variety of habitats ranging from the intertidal zone to the open ocean. Ghost Crabs are opportunistic feeders, and will scavenge for food as well as hunt live prey. They are also known to be aggressive , and will defend their territory from other Ghost Crabs. Ghost Crab behavior is therefore complex and fascinating, making them a popular subject of study for scientists.

Ghost Crab Speed

Ghost crabs are among the fastest animals on the planet, reaching speeds of up to 25 miles per hour . They are able to achieve these high speeds thanks to their long legs and large claws, which they use to propel themselves forward. Ghost crabs are also incredibly agile, able to change direction quickly and easily. This makes them difficult to catch, even for the swiftest predators. Ghost crabs are native to tropical and subtropical regions, where they live on beaches and in sand dunes. They are nocturnal creatures, spending the day buried in the sand and emerging at night to hunt for food. Ghost crabs are omnivorous, eating everything from other crustaceans to plants and small mammals. These fascinating creatures are a joy to watch, whether they’re scurrying along the beach or playing hide-and-seek in the sand dunes.

Ghost Crab Hunting

Ghost crabs are a type of crab that is found in tropical and subtropical climates. They get their name from their ability to change their color to match their surroundings, making them difficult to spot. Ghost crabs are excellent scavengers and can often be found near the shoreline, searching for food. Ghost crab hunting is a popular activity in many coastal areas , as they are considered to be a delicacy. The best time to hunt for ghost crabs is at night, when they are most active. Ghost crabs can be caught using baited traps or by netting them as they scurry along the beach. Once caught, they can be cooked and eaten whole. Ghost crab hunting is a fun and challenging way to enjoy the outdoors and learn about these fascinating creatures.

Frequently Asked Question

What is the scientific name for a Ghost Crab?

What happens when you get pinched by a ghost crab, do ghost crabs growl using teeth in their stomachs, how do ghost crabs digest food.


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Ghost Crab (Sand Crab)

  • What Is a Ghost Crab?

Table of Contents

Description, shell shedding, characteristics, reproduction, scientific classification, table of content.

This animal is also known as “Sand Crab” or “White Crab”. These are also known as “Mole Crabs”.

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.

This animal has five 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 – forward, backward or sideways. In male crabs of this species, one claw is slightly larger than the other.

It has large black eyes that are supported on stalks. Its eyes help it see in any direction. There are horns attached to the end of the eyes of male crabs. It is by these horns that the gender of a crab is recognized. The eyes of these creatures are sensitive to changes in light.

The large eyes of these crabs give 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.

It is about 2-3 inches in size.

It has a water-tight exoskeleton (external skeletal structure) which prevents the creature from becoming dry. The body covering also lends support to its muscles and organs.

With increasing maturity, the 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 crab remains vulnerable.

This creature is found in sandy beaches of tropical as well as subtropical coasts. It can be found anywhere from the American Atlantic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea to coasts along the American Pacific and the Indo-Pacific.

These crabs are usually found in sandy beaches and backshores where they live in burrows. Crabs usually burrow a deep hole to keep themselves cool during the daytime. They remain in burrows during daytime and when winter is at its coldest.

It is omnivorous, meaning it feeds on both animals and plants. It can also devour other crabs and detritus. The creature feeds on snails, clams, turtle hatchlings, lizards and small crabs. Ghost Crab foods also include organic matter.

Ghost Crabs

Source – umces

This is an exceptional creature that possesses the unique ability to store oxygen in airbags located close to its gills. When the creature buries itself in the sand during winter hibernation, it survives on this stored oxygen.

The crab can move on the sand at about 10 miles per hour and is able to change is direction suddenly.

It burrows into the sand at a 45-degree angle for a depth of up to 4 feet. It creates holes of 1-2 inch width. Adult crabs of this family occasionally dig a burrow with two entrance shafts.

The digging activities of these crabs have been reportedly heard even 2 meters (6.5 ft) away.

Ghost crabs generally look for food at night. This is also the time when they dig and repair their burrows. They search beaches for any animal or plant that has been washed ashore. It is rare to see these crabs during daytime as they are mainly active during the night.

Mature male ghost crabs neatly pile the burrowed sand next to their entrance. Young and female crabs do not make a neat pile and the sand they dig out is scattered in all directions beside their entrance. Female crabs can identify a male residence by the neat sand pile and get a mate for themselves.

Younger crabs burrow and make homes in the area of shore that is closer to water. Older crabs are seen to burrow away from water.

These crabs can make three types of sounds, by stroking their right claw on the substratum of their leg, by rubbing their legs together and through their gill chamber.

The animal breathes in through its gills. They periodically make their gills moist with seawater. The gill chamber produces bubbling sounds that can be heard by people who go for tanning at the beach.

The creature retreats to the ocean while laying eggs. The eggs of this creature 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 crabs not to enter its burrow. Male crabs also use this sound to attract female mates.

Ghost Crabs can make very good pets if properly looked after. If you are planning to breed these crabs in your home, here are some steps that you have to follow.

  • Get a tank of about 20 gallon size. If you want to keep over four crabs in only one tank, it is advisable that you buy one of larger size.
  • Fill half of the Ghost Crab tank with thick sand.
  • Keep little shells, rocks and small plants in the tank. This will recreate an atmosphere similar to a sea shore and keep your crabs entertained!
  • Sift the sand with a small branch or sifter to keep the contents of the tank clean. Do this once every week to rotate fresh sand. The more the crabs you have in the tank, the more frequently you should rotate the sand.
  • Use clams and oysters or even old vegetables and fish to your crab. Repetition in diet can tire your crabs and make their survival difficult. Try to find out which foods your crab like. Feed that often to your crab and also balance it with other foods.

Female crabs of this species have a rounded abdominal flap. Thousands of eggs are incubated inside the flap. These are freed into the sea after being matured. The eggs mature into larvae at sea after over two months and then return back to the shore.

Studies have shown the density of Ghost Crab harvesting to be around 3000-5000 every km every year.

Know some of the most interesting facts associated with these creatures.

  • These crabs can hold oxygen in their air sacs for about six weeks.
  • It wets it gills for two purposes, reproduction and respiration. Occasionally, the crab draws up water from moist sand to moisten its gills.
  • The strong hairy legs of this animal make it run very fast and achieve speeds of about 10 miles per hour. This makes this crab the fastest among all crustaceans.
  • The crab has club-shaped eyestalks and it boasts of a 360° vision. This helps it see and catch insects that are even in mid-air.
  • It has the exceptional capability to shrink back its eyes into grooves located on the frontal area of its shell.
  • Contrary to what many think, these creatures cannot swim in water. However, female crabs can keep themselves afloat by turning upside down in water. This is done to let the egg mass under their abdomen respire freely.
  • Occasionally, the crabs go out into the sea to protect themselves from predators such as raccoons and birds .
  • They devour baby turtles while they hatching out in the sand. The crabs drag the baby turtles into their burrows and eat them up.
  • Crabs of this species usually engage in a combat that is non-contact. The combat style is more ritualistic in style and ends in contact in very rare cases.

Want to know how these crabs look like? Here are some useful Ghost Crab Pics. Check out these Ghost Crab photos to get an idea about the appearance of these creatures.

pictures of Ghost Crab

Source – webs

Ghost Crab images

Source – examiner

This crab changes its pace as its speed increases. It can walk for an indefinite period of time on four pairs of legs. At very high speed, it raises its fourth pair off the ground. At highest speed, it uses only the first two pairs of walking legs to keep running.

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ghost crab length

19 responses to “Ghost Crab (Sand Crab)”

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I have some very good examples of ghost crabs that are thousands of years old. They are calcified and only found in the area I live, in Florida. If you are intereted I can send pics. I also have a paper on the subject from a local university.

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I’m writing a field report on ghost crabs right now (Ocypode quadrata). I’d be very interested in reading the paper you’ve got =).

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this helped me with my science project on ghost crabs thanks

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I am a park ranger in Florida. I will be doing a ranger program on ghost crabs soon. A couple of pics of the ghost crab fossils would be great to add to the program! Thank you! Hope you see this comment.

[…] Animal Spot: Ghost Crab […]

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I’m interested in seeing more photos of the sand crabs 🙂 would you mind sending me some?

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yes, we study bird nest productivity on our Florida State park beaches and ghost crabs have been documented in eating snowy plover eggs,chicks and make attempts at eating adult plovers. They also eat least tern eggs and harass least tern adults on nests. We have some footage on youtube looking at defense mechanisms feigning broken wing to lure ghost crabs away from snowy plover nests.

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Question about sand crabs – we have been watching them all week at a NC beach. However, last night there were none to be found. It is close to a full moon – does this have any impact on them? All other nights have been cloudy. If not, any idea why they would be out one night and not another?

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My husband and I found one on the coast of Galveston over labor day weekend. It was a pregnant female. She had her thousands of larvae last night. Would love some advice on how to care for all the larvae. We have an established 100 gallon saltwater tank and would hate to put all the larvae in there with all the fish.

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These things are cool! Is it possible to spot a Ghost Crab in Maine? I’ve never heard of these types of crabs. Would a ghost crab pinch like an ordinary crab? Thanks.

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It’s interesting to hear that this crab is nocturnal. My husband and I have been frequenting the Playalinda Beach near Titusville Florida, and this last month we have been watching many many ghost crabs during the day. We are absolutely fascinated by them! They display all of the characteristics and activities that you mention. We have seen one baby that is almost minuscule and is already displaying the exact behavior of burrowing out its hole. From our chairs we can sometimes see six or seven of them at a time within our vision. They are very very cautious and can move like lightning. We took a video with our phone that shows a crab flinging its load of sand away from its hole. Very entertaining creatures. Thank you for this interesting information.

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It was pretty weird to hear they were nocturnal.

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Do they have a type of exercise or health for the ghost crab just asking because if they do that is a cool thing!

This website is epic

This website rules

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I’m originally from Rhode Island but currently living in Central Florida. I was sitting on the Beach in Cocoa and all of sudden I felt a tickle on my toe. I sit up to find a white and yellow crab at my feet. I was so shocked to see this crab so close to me and not to mention how this crab touched my toe. Very interesting and beautiful crab. Came on here to find more info.

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How do they flick the sand out of their burrow?

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We live near a protected barrier island, and enjoy taking our small whaler out to spend part of a beautiful day, to walk the sandy beach that extends about 20 undeveloped beautiful miles, sit and watch waves without people except for the usual few surfers, locals, and visitors. I saw this crab, who appeared to be alive, with so much color and very large, yet was not moving. I took a photo of it and sent it to the island’s preserve group who studies and protects the island’s wildlife. It is apparently a ghost or sand crab. I could not believe they shed their exoskeletons! It looked larger than one of the normal N. C. sized crabs, but now I know why it looked alive yet was not, nor was it inside it’s body at all, not dead, just the shell left behind. I can attach a photo if you are interested. Thanks for the information on your site that they actually recommended to me, from the Masonboro Island Reserve.

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Thank you Debbie! It would be helpful if you’d attach a photo or two of the exoskeleton that you saw.

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Ocypode cordimana

  • Classification Genus Ocypode Species cordimana Family Ocypodidae Suborder Pleocyemata Infraorder Brachyura Order Decapoda Superorder Eucarida Class Malacostraca Subphylum Crustacea Phylum Arthopoda Kingdom Animalia
  • Size Range 3.5 cm


You will probably only catch a quick glimpse of this fast-moving crab as it races across the sand and disappears into a burrow.


The Ghost Crab is relatively small and, being almost translucent with flecks of pink and yellow, it is well camouflaged against the sand. If you manage to see one up close, you will notice its eyes are on the end of long stalks.

Ghost Crabs live on intertidal beaches.


Ghost Crabs are found in tropical waters, from the Kimberley in Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland to Sydney, New South Wales.

Other behaviours and adaptations

The Ghost Crab stays in the cool protection of its burrow by day and scuttles down to the water at twilight to hunt. The burrow, which is built quite high up on the shore (sometimes over 100 m from the sea), can be over 1 m deep.

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ghost crab length

Things You Didn’t Know About Ghost Crabs

ghost crab length

Maybe you’ve lived on the coast your whole life, or perhaps you just visit a few times a year. Either way, you’ve probably seen little white crabs scooting across the sand at night.

The Ocypode Quadrata,  also known as the Ghost Crab, is found in tropical and subtropical climates around the world. No stranger to Florida’s Gulf Coast, the creature is nocturnal, although they sometimes make daytime appearances as well.

Ghost Crabs are generally pale in color, but they have the ability to change color to blend in with their surroundings.

Ghost Crabs have a square body that can grow up to three inches in size. They have four pairs of legs, one pair of claws and stalked eyes that can swivel 360 degrees. Ghost Crabs make a unique bubbling sound by hitting their claws on the ground and rubbing their legs together. Their scientific name, Ocypode means “fast feet,” as they’re often seen darting sideways at up to 10 miles per hour.

While the Ghost Crab breathes oxygen, they must also maintain plenty of moisture in their gills. They do this by acquiring water at the edge of the gulf or by getting moisture from damp sand. Ghost Crabs feed on sea turtle hatchlings, turtle eggs, clams, insects, and other crabs.

Ghost Crabs live in tiny burrows in the sand, preferring a solitary life with only one crab per burrow.

Dug at a 45-degree angle, these burrows may be up to four feet deep. They create the angled entrances so that the onshore breeze can blow into them for ventilation. The habitats can also easily be closed off during the heat of the day to keep the crabs cool.

Of course, while it’s part of many childhood rituals to chase Sand Crabs at night (rarely actually catching them, of course), please use the opportunity to teach children about these special creatures, and to always respect and value life.

Please also remember to always use turtle-safe flashlights when on the beach at night! Our local sea turtles need your help.

Written by Mitch Jaugstetter with contributions from Laurie Reichenbach of the  Volunteer Beach Ambassadors


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  • Primary Research Paper
  • Published: May 2006

Burrow Architecture of the Ghost Crab Ocypode ceratophthalma on a Sandy Shore in Hong Kong

  • Benny Kwok Kan Chan 1   nAff2 ,
  • Karen Kit Yu Chan 1 &
  • Philip Cheuk Man Leung 1  

Hydrobiologia volume  560 ,  pages 43–49 ( 2006 ) Cite this article

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The ghost crab Ocypode ceratophthalma (Pallas) creates burrows of variety shapes at different ages. Juveniles (mean carapace length 11 mm) produced shallow J-shaped burrows, which incline vertically into the substratum (mean depth 160 mm). Larger crabs (17–25 mm carapace length) have Y-shaped and spiral burrows (mean depth 361 mm). These Y-shaped burrows have a primary arm, which extends to the surface forming the opening, and a secondary arm which terminates in a blind spherical ending. The two arms join in a single shaft and end with a chamber at the base. The secondary arms and chambers are believed to be used for mating or as a refuge from predation. The spiral burrows have spiral single channel ending in a chamber. Older crabs (mean carapace length 32.6 mm) had simple, straight single tube burrows, which inclined into the substratum at mean of 73° and had a mean depth of 320 mm. During summer daytime periods, the burrows shelter the crabs from heat and desiccation stress. The sand surface temperature at the burrow opening was ~48 °C but temperatures inside the burrows can drop to 32 °C at a depth of 250 mm. Variation in the burrow architecture with crab age appears to be related to the crab’s behaviour. Juvenile crabs have smaller gill areas and move out of the burrows regularly to renew their respiratory water and, as a result, they do not need a deep burrow. Larger crabs, in contrast, can tolerate prolonged periods without renewing their respiratory water and therefore create deeper and more complex burrows for mating and refuges.

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F. Barros (2001) ArticleTitle Ghost crabs as a tool for rapid assessment of human impacts on exposed sandy shores Biological Conservation 97 399–404 Occurrence Handle 10.1016/S0006-3207(00)00116-6

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J. H. Christy (1982) ArticleTitle Burrow structure and use in the sand fiddler crab, Uca pugilator (Bosc) Animal Behaviour 31 687–694

Farrow, G. E., 1971. Back reef and lagoonal environment of Aldabra Atoll, distinguished by their crustacean burrows. In Stoddart, D. R. & C. M. Yonge (eds), Regional Variation in Indian Ocean Coral Reefs. Proceedings of the Symposium of the Zoological Society of London: 455–500

R. W. George (1982) The distribution and evolution of the ghost crabs ( Ocypode spp.) of Hong Kong with a description of a new species B. S. Morton C. K. Tsang (Eds) Proceedings of the First International Marine Biological Workshop: The Marine Flora and Fauna of Hong Kong and Southern China, Hong Kong, 1980 The Hong Kong University Press Hong Kong 185–194

I. Hayasaki (1935) ArticleTitle The burrowing activities of certain crabs and their geologic significance American Midland Naturalist 16 99–103

G. W. Hill R. E. Hunter (1973) ArticleTitle Burrows of the ghost crab Ocypode quadrata (Facricius) on the Barrier Islands, south-central Texas coast Journal of Sedimentary Petrology 43 24–30

S. Kaehler G. A. Williams (1996) ArticleTitle Distribution of algae on tropical rocky shores: spatial and temporal patterns of non-coralline encrusting algae in Hong Kong Marine Biology 125 177–187 Occurrence Handle 10.1007/BF00350772

B. Morton J. Morton (1983) The Seashore Ecology of Hong Kong Hong Kong University Press Hong Kong

Morton, B., G. A. Williams & S. Y. Lee, 1996. The Benthic Marine Ecology of Hong Kong. A Dwindling Heritage? In Coastal Infrastructure Development in Hong Kong: A Review. Hong Kong Government, Hong Kong: 233–267

Takahashi, S., 1932. On the burrows of Ocypode ceratophthalma Fabricius. Kwagaku 2: 329–335 (in Japanese)

R. B. Weinstern (1995) ArticleTitle Locomotor behaviour of nocturnal ghost crab on the beach: focal animal sampling and instantaneous velocity from three dimensional motion analysis Journal of Experimental Biology 198 989–999

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Author information

Benny Kwok Kan Chan

Present address: Research Centre for Biodiversity, Academia Sinica, 128, Section 2, Academia Road, Taipei, 115, Taiwan, ROC

Authors and Affiliations

The Swire Institute of Marine Science, Department of Ecology & Biodiversity, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong

Benny Kwok Kan Chan, Karen Kit Yu Chan & Philip Cheuk Man Leung

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Chan, B.K.K., Chan, K.K.Y. & Leung, P.C.M. Burrow Architecture of the Ghost Crab Ocypode ceratophthalma on a Sandy Shore in Hong Kong. Hydrobiologia 560 , 43–49 (2006).

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Received : 01 December 2004

Revised : 18 September 2005

Accepted : 02 October 2005

Issue Date : May 2006


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  • Golden Ghost Crab

Golden Ghost Crab ( Ocypode convexa )

Also known as Ghost Crab, Sand Crab, Shore Crab, Western Ghost Crab, Yellow Ghost Crab

ghost crab length

Photograph Info.

ghost crab length


Also known as Ghost Crab, Sand Crab, Shore Crab, Western Ghost Crab, Yellow Ghost Crab. Found over open, gravel and sandy beaches, often close to their burrows. These crabs often use their claws to scrape flies from the underside of leaves. They feed on small animals, carrion, detritus, eggs, seaweeds. Length - 4.5cm Depth - Hightide area Indian Ocean - Western Australia Males have a single enlarged claw, while females have two small feeding claws. They feed by scraping the surface sediment up in their small claws, transferring it to the mouth where the complex mouth parts sift out the organic matter. They then spit out a small pellet of cleaned sand. These feeling pellets cover the mudflat by the end of the low tide period. Because males have only one small, feeding claw, they feed at half the rate of the females. They therefore have to spend about double the time feeding. Males also use their large claw for fighting as well as mating by waving it around. Like all crabs, these crabs shed their shells as they grow. If they have lost legs or claws during their present growth cycle a new one will be present when they moult. If the large fiddle claw is lost, males will develop one on the opposite side after their next moult. Newly moulted crabs are very vulnerable because of their soft shells. They are reclusive and hide until the new shell hardens. Ref:

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ghost crab length


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  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. 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.

  3. Ghost Crab

    These burrows can be up to 3 feet deep and 6 feet wide. During the day, ghost crabs will close the entrance to their burrow with sand to stay cool and avoid predators. Ghost crabs are opportunistic eaters and will eat just about anything they can find, including insects, small animals, and even other crabs.

  4. Ghost Crab Animal Facts

    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

  5. Atlantic Ghost Crab

    Average length: 50 mm. Other Physical Features: bilateral symmetry Sexual Dimorphism: male larger Habitat 8 Ghost crabs inhabit tropical and subtropical areas and can be found on both oceanic and more protected estuarine beaches.

  6. Atlantic ghost crab

    Description Adults are greyish or the color of straw, and around 5 cm (2.0 in) wide at maturity. [4] They must return to water periodically to moisten their gills, and when larvae must be released into the sea, but are otherwise terrestrial. [4] Their stalked compound eyes can swivel to give them 360° vision. [2]

  7. Ghost Crab

    Padre Island National Seashore Texas Ghost Crab Ghost crabs camouflage well in their sandy homes. NPS Photo Ghost crabs, also called Sand crabs, are so named because of their ability to blend into the sandy beaches and dunes in which they live.

  8. Ghost Crab

    Ghost crabs are opportunistic and will move their burrows to be close to food. Look closely next time you see a piece of driftwood, a dead turtle, or fish on the beach and will notice the ghost crab burrows seem to surround it. Threats. Ghost crabs are an important indicator species of beach health. Their biggest threats are anthropogenic impacts.

  9. Ghost crab

    The crab, sandy or whitish in colour, has claws of unequal size and rather hairy legs. The back, or carapace, is nearly rectangular in shape and about 3.75-5 cm (about 1.5-2 inches) across. Long stalks support the eyes. The crab lives in burrows sometimes 1 m (3.3 feet) deep. Sand fleas are an important part of the diet.

  10. Gulf ghost crab

    Gulf ghost crabs are medium-sized, reaching a maximum overall body diameter of 6 in (15 cm). They are one of only two ghost crab species found in the eastern Pacific (the other being the painted ghost crabs ). However, gulf ghost crabs can easily be distinguished from painted ghost crabs by the absence of "horns" on their eyes. [1] Taxonomy

  11. Ghost Crab (Sand Crab)

    Length Anatomy Shell Shedding Habitat Location Diet Characteristics Burrows Behavior Sounds Gills Eggs Claws Care Reproduction Density Facts Pictures Scientific Classification Names This animal is also known as "Sand Crab" or "White Crab". These are also known as "Mole Crabs". Description

  12. Golden ghost crab

    Ocypode convexa, commonly known as the golden ghost crab, or alternatively the western ghost crab or yellow ghost crab, is a species of ghost crabs endemic to the coast of Western Australia, from Broome to Perth. ... Their carapace is deep and box-like in shape, and can grow to a length of up to 45 mm (1.8 in) and a width of 52 mm (2.0 in).

  13. Ghost Crab

    Ghost Crabs are found in tropical waters, from the Kimberley in Western Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland to Sydney, New South Wales. Other behaviours and adaptations. The Ghost Crab stays in the cool protection of its burrow by day and scuttles down to the water at twilight to hunt. The burrow, which is built quite high up on the shore ...

  14. Ghost Crab

    These crabs burrow along the beach from just above the high tide line to behind the first line of dunes. Burrows have one opening and can reach four feet in length. Ghost crabs are most active at night and communicate using sounds made with their legs and claws.

  15. Things You Didn't Know About Ghost Crabs

    Ghost Crabs have a square body that can grow up to three inches in size. They have four pairs of legs, one pair of claws and stalked eyes that can swivel 360 degrees. Ghost Crabs make a unique bubbling sound by hitting their claws on the ground and rubbing their legs together. Their scientific name, Ocypode means "fast feet," as they're ...

  16. Ocypode brevicornis

    Ocypode brevicornis is a species of ghost crab native to the Indian Ocean, from the Gulf of Oman to the Nicobar Islands.They are relatively large ghost crabs with a somewhat trapezoidal body. The carapace reaches a length of 41 mm (1.6 in) and a width of 50 mm (2.0 in). They are a mottled brown to yellow in coloration.

  17. Burrow Architecture of the Ghost Crab

    The ghost crab Ocypode ceratophthalma (Pallas) creates burrows of variety shapes at different ages. Juveniles (mean carapace length 11 mm) produced shallow J-shaped burrows, which incline vertically into the substratum (mean depth 160 mm). Larger crabs (17-25 mm carapace length) have Y-shaped and spiral burrows (mean depth 361 mm). These Y-shaped burrows have a primary arm, which extends to ...

  18. The Golden Ghost Crab

    Also known as Ghost Crab, Sand Crab, Shore Crab, Western Ghost Crab, Yellow Ghost Crab. Found over open, gravel and sandy beaches, often close to their burrows. These crabs often use their claws to scrape flies from the underside of leaves. They feed on small animals, carrion, detritus, eggs, seaweeds. Length - 4.5cm.

  19. Claw dimensions measured for ghost crabs, O. quadrata (CL claw length

    Given that the living area of ghost crabs spans all cross-shore compartments and the whole dissipative-to-reflective morphodynamic gradient, they are appropriate organisms to access the...

  20. Burrow architecture of Ocypode ceratophthalmus with various

    The crab carapace length showed significant correlation with burrow opening diameter (r = 0.89, p < 0.001) (Figure 3a Burrow type called Y shape with double opening (YDO) ( Figure 2 g) (n = 4)...

  21. Crab & Ghost Shrimp Regulations

    5 inches (Measured across the widest point of the body from the tip of spine to tip of spine) Exceptions: No more than 5% by number, of undersized blue crabs may be possessed for bait purposes only and must be placed in a separate container. May not possess egg-bearing (sponge) crabs.

  22. Ghost crabs can run up to 100 body lengths per second

    2.8K ooMEAToo • 3 mo. ago They compared body lengths because they wanted to see how fast the crab would run if it was the size of a human and it turned out the crab would run 391 Mph or 629 Kph. 1.4K TrippyReality • 3 mo. ago Can we trust that you're not a crab with a fishy agenda? 770 Pdub77 • 3 mo. ago Some say he's half man, half fish.

  23. Horn-Eyed Ghost Crabs Can Move 100 Body-Lengths Per Second!

    100 body lengths on the ghost crab works out to only about 4.7 miles/hr. However if you were to convert that to human body lengths, that would be equivalent to running over 350 miles/hr. When converted to G forces, that's over 16 Gs of force. That's enough to kill you instantly.