Have you ever stayed at the Mwamba Conservation Center or been to the Kenyan beaches and spotted tiny pinkish crabs scampering really fast? If you have, then you might have spotted the Pink Ghost Crab, scientific name Ocypode ryderi.
This cute creation is found on the East Coast of Africa from the Eastern Cape region to Kenya in the whole world. With an adult growing up to 1.4 inches in length and having one claw larger than the other, this species of crab gets its name from its tiny pale pink body and distinctive purple/mauve joints. Most of the time beachgoers attest to seeing them scurry into the sand or running into the surf whenever they went close to them. This is because the Pink Ghost crab is notoriously shy and will run whenever it sees any threatening creature coming towards it. They are also known to be the fastest runners of the crustaceans.
However, this is not the only reason they burrow into the sand or run into the waves. Ghost crabs are semi-terrestrial creatures and breathe oxygen from the air through moistened gills. This means that if they stay on the sand for too long they will suffocate and if they stay underwater too long they will also drown! This is partly why you will rarely see them during the hottest part of the day. They are predominantly nocturnal, coming out in the morning or evening to scavenge on the beach. Pink Ghost crabs are Omnivores and will feed on tiny sea plants and also prey on small animals including sea turtle eggs and hatchlings, clams and other crabs.
These little gifts of nature are not only easy on the eyes. Their presence serves as an important factor to ecologists in assessing the impact of human disturbance on the beaches. Since they burrow into the sand for shelter and water, they are fewer in public beaches due to the amount of human traffic trampling on their homes and killing them in the process. Thus they are more on beaches with minimal human traffic such as the Marine Wildlife National Park on the Mwamba beach and other protected areas. However shy they are you might be able to see them scurry around when you are lounging on the beach quietly reading a book or just taking a nap so be on the lookout next time and spread the word. Just don’t trample on their homes.