Let’s hear it for Ocypode quadrata—the lowly Ghost Crab. The scuttling little beach inhabitant that has been the delight of thousands of children on the Outer Banks over the years.
They’re an interesting little creature. Just by observing them, a lot can be learned. Those little holes in the sand? A lot of them are ghost crab homes. Home and a bolt hole.
Hot weather is not much to their liking so they hang out in the holes when it’s hottest. They also wait out the winter in there. But when they come out in the evening and at night, those holes become their safety net—a quick place to run and hide when they feel threatened.
A ghost crab is not a true crab. But unlike most members of the crab family, they don’t like to live in the water—an obvious statement when a few dozen of them are scurrying about at dusk.
However, they do have gills, so they either have to let the surf wash over them once in a while or hang out in their holes where the damp sand is wet enough for their gills to work.
Ghost Crab Oddities
Here’s something interesting about them—they change color to match their environment. The change is not rapid; they are not chameleons, but over time their color will adjust to their environment.
The faster they’re moving the fewer legs they use. When there is no danger and the ghost crab is casually walking, their four walking legs are used. When threatened, they use just their front to legs to sprint to safety.
According to scientists who have studied them, they have a pretty wide diet, eating sea turtle eggs and insects as well as vegetation that grows at the edge of their range.
Humans aren’t much of a threat to them, although the loss of habitat could be a problem. However, raccoons and seabirds do feast on them.