Thursday, July 03, 2008

Disappearing Ghost Crabs

I'd like to wish everyone a safe and happy 4th of July. It's a little rainy today with a good chance on Friday but then a drier weekend. So far on SPI there are no mobs of people, and it is nice and cool outside - an open door day!

Several times lately I watched the kids chasing ghost crabs at night, which is very fun with flashlights on the beach. The crabs are quite speedy and will disappear in a crab hole in a second. I saw plastic buckets with many of them, and had to wonder what the heck they were going to do to those poor crabs, but paid it no mind.

But then an observant friend noted how small they were compared to many years ago, when a respectable "sand crab" was at least two inches across the shell. They sure seem to be getting small these days, don't they?

Maybe that says something about our beach, and maybe all those kids as well (I have to admit, the new LED lights are cool). The little I know about ghost crabs is fascinating, such as they hide all day from the sun and predators but have to feed and drink at night; their burrows may be up to four feet long and are usually at a 45-degree angle such as into a dune. As part of the dune ecosystem, they reflect the overall health of the beach including its nutrient load, maintenance that can disturb their burrows, and predation from ... I think it's mostly the kids.

It is only befitting that "crabby the anti-litter mascot" could well be a ghost crab. Surely it is not a nasty land crab from the bayside!


Rob Nixon said...

I definitely caught my fare share when I was a kid!!

Did you see the op-ed letter in the breeze today?

At least he didn't call me the "r" word!

Sam said...

I was going to write a letter in response, actually, but found it hard to without playing Mr. Reece's game, which was very different than what you wrote about the unfortunate Mr. Ochoa, a former constable. So as to the editorial letter - make little circles in the air with your pinkie and go "woo-woo" for special effect!

I grew up in the Northeast and I honestly can't recall any dune crabs like we have here. But I remember my kids chasing them like spotted monkeys because we came down to visit SPI 3-4 time a year.

The biggest I ever saw was in the lobby of the Bahia Mar when it was a big storm and almost nobody was there. I think Laurie G. was the receptionist back then. But came a giant ghost crab maybe 3 inches on the shell, a monster.

My boy Eric went right into hunting mode and we couldn't leave that lobby until he'd got that crab or ran it off, which had Laurie in stitches while Lori my wife was paying the bill to get the state rate. Eric would run, dive, slide, and almost get him and that crab would pop up and skitter sideways in a new direction.

Oh yeah, he got his revenge but could never find one that big...