It’s a new week here at Tree Limin’ Extreme, and therefore we have a new Critter of the Week. This week we are gonna take a look at some of the Virgin Islands crabs.
Hermit Crabs are a group of crab species found all over the world. There are about 1100 hermit crab species. Most live in marine environments, but the ones most commonly encountered here in the Virgin Islands are of the land loving variety. Hermit are related to other crabs, but they differ in that they carry around their home on their backs. Their abdomen does not have the hard shell of the rest of their body, and so it is vulnerable to injury and predators. They remedy this by finding the discarded shells of other sea creatures (most often sea snails), and crawling inside. Hermit crabs can be found all over the Virgin Islands, although always near to the water, which they need to reproduce. The are also mostly nocturnal.
Ghost crabs, or sand crabs, are common along our beautiful white sand beaches. Called ghost crabs because of their pale color and nocturnal nature, they are mostly seen quickly scurrying down the sand. They are responsible for the holes found dug in the moist areas of the beach. The crab uses these burrows to escape the hottest part of the day, and to spend the cooler winters in some areas. They come out at night to feed on clams, and other smaller crabs. They are also a natural predator of sea turtle hatchlings. You can try to catch them if you see one, but they sure are fast!
Several species of so called “land crabs” are also native in the Virgin Islands. Also called pond crabs, in the British Virgin Islands, they can grow quite large and are a popular food source here. They are the main ingredient in the popular dish called “Crab and Rice.” They can most often be found near muddy holes along the edges of mangrove swamps, salt ponds, or other perpetually damp areas. The crabs mainly live on land, having organs that get oxygen from the air rather than the water, but these crabs still live and feed near the water. Keep a lookout for these large crabs, and be sure to try some crab and rice if you can, it is a rare treat!
-The TLE Carcinology Department