What is a Ghost Crab?


This species of crab earned its name due to their nocturnal nature and also their generally pale coloration that blends in with their sandy environment. They are also capable of changing the shade of their body color to match their environment and time of day.

What does a Ghost Crab look like?

  • Stalked eyes that swivel 360° to give them vision around their entire body
  • Square-shaped shell that can grow to an estimated 3 inches wide at maturity
  • Males are typically larger than females
  • Four pairs of legs for walking and one pair of claws

Where are they located?

Ghost Crabs are sometimes called sand crabs or beach crabs because they are located along the coast of tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world. The quiet and more secluded beaches are the best for finding Ghost Crabs. There have been a variety of species of Ghost Crabs identified in these locations.

  • United States (Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico)
  • Carribbean
  • Mexico
  • Central America
  • South America
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Africa

What is their habitat?

  • Located on the beach above water at low tide and under water at high tide.
  • Live in burrows (typically, one per hole) in the sand that are sometimes over 4 feet deep. Older crabs can be hundreds of feet from the water.
  • The burrows typically have a long tunnel with a chamber at the bottom that allows them to turn around
  • They can close off their burrows to stay cool during the hottest part of the day, and hibernate throughout the coldest part of the winter, .
  • Burrows may have a second entrance, creating a Y. It is also thought that they dig the burrows at 45° angles and direct them so that the onshore breeze can blow through them.

Other information:

  • Live for up to three years.
  • Can only stay underwater for short periods of time or they will drown.
  • Breathe oxygen and must moisten their gills either by traveling to the water or from damp sand
  • Fast runners that will quickly dart away at the first sign of danger and will either go back to their burrows or run into the sea to escape.
  • Considered scavengers and are predators of small animals, including sea turtle eggs and hatchlings, clams, other crabs and insects.
  • Go to water to release larvae into the sea
  • Make sounds by hitting the ground with their claws or rubbing their legs together. They can also make a bubbling sound.
  • Mating is a competition where the males raise their claws and bodies in intimidating poses until one submits or they eventually physically fight until one finally withdrawals.
  • Can “hold their breath” for up to six weeks by storing oxygen in special sacs near their gills