Sometimes referred to simply as the “Sand crab,” The Atlantic ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata, shouldn’t be a stranger to coastal residents scratching out a living along the western shores of the Atlantic. In my home territory of Volusia county, Florida, Ghost crabs are regularly encountered on our sandy beaches, especially at night and in the early morning hours.
Primarily nocturnal, Atlantic ghost crabs dig burrows in the soft sands of the beach to hide out during most of the day. They dig in the morning and can often be seen in the earlier hours going about their daily routine, often quickly scuttling sideways across the sand. By mid-day, they’re typically well bunkered down until the following evening. Once the sun sets and the night leans over both the land and the water, Atlantic ghost crabs come out to do all the other things crabs do: eat and reproduce.
Atlantic ghost crabs are often a very light, very bright mix of white and yellow. Some individuals, however, sport a blue-to-purple spot on their carapace. Apparently, the carapace is slightly translucent, and Ghost crabs are able to shift their coloring somewhat. When on white sand during the day, for example, they’ll appear more white — more ghostly. At night, when they’re romping about the darkened surf, the darker tones will come out.
By night and by day, the Atlantic ghost crab is undoubtedly a curious and jittery little creature. I always take delight in seeing them sideswipe across the sand or through the water.