Ghost Crab Holes
- Ghost crabs are a small shore crab.
- They usually have one claw bigger than the other (males) and their eyes are raised above their body on stalks.
- Their holes are easily recognised by their size (>20 mm) and scattered sand left outside.
- Size: Holes 20 mm to 100mm in diameter.
- Ghost crabs are usually nocturnal, so count the abundance of fresh holes only.
What to Observe
Search area for 20 minutes and record under the following categories:
- Abundant - found easily with little searching
- Frequent - found with minimal searching
- Rare - only 1 or 2 individuals found with intensive searching
- Not found - not present during search
ClimateWatch Science Advisor
Ghost crabs generally live on relatively undisturbed beaches and their presence can indicate a healthy beach ecosystem. Excessive foot traffic, vehicle use and removal of the kelp wrack through beach clean-ups, may disturb ghost crab habitats. Sea level rise may alter beach dynamics reducing available habitats that are suitable for ghost crabs.
When To Look
Throughout the year
Where To Look
- Common on oceanic beaches. Usually nocturnal so rarely seen during the day.
- On upper sections of the beach, above the strand line and along the first sand dune.
- WA, NT, QLD, NSW
Davey, K. (1998). A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. New Holland Publishers Australia Pty Ltd.
Edger, GJ. (2008). Australian Marine Life. The Plants and Animals of Temperate Waters [2nd Ed]. New Holland Publishers Australia Pty Ltd.
Ghost crabs look similar to the fiddler crabs (also Ocypodidae family) and solider crabs (Mictyris sp.) all of which can live in sandy environments. However both fiddler and solider crabs live only in estuarine environments and rarely found on oceanic beaches.
Did You Know?
Ghost crabs feed on carrion (dead animals) and seaweed (algae) washed up on the beach and have been known to eat turtle hatchlings.
There are six different species of ghost crabs ( genus Ocypode) found in Australia and their burrows can be up to 200 metres from the shoreline and up to 1 metre deep.
The name Ocypode translates to ‘fast foot’ which it apt as the ghost crabs are one of the fastest animals on Earth for their size. They can run approximately 100 body lengths per second or around 7.5km/hr. If ghost crabs were the size of a human, that would equate to 400km/hr!