Ghost crabs found on Texas beaches can move up to 10 mph, hibernate for 6 weeks

Ghost crab photo from National Park Service (Dustin Baker, National Park Service)

While they may be hard to see, ghost crabs can be found at Padre Island National Seashore and other Texas beaches.

Officials said ghost crabs, also known as sand crabs, live in burrows that can be found all over the beach. Their nature allows them to camouflage with the sand.

These crabs are described to have two black eyes and six strong legs that can scutter up to 10 mph, according to the National Park Service website. This is another reason it’s hard to spot them: they can disappear out of sight quickly.

“How are they not left high and dry like fish out of water?” the seashore’s official account questioned. “Similar to how we hold our breath underwater, ghost crabs keep their gills wet by holding moisture in their carapaces.”

Officials said while ghost crabs can stay on land for “extended periods of time, they must live near a source of water or they will dry out.” In addition, ghost crabs will hibernate in their burrows during the winter, “holding their breath” for up to six weeks by storing oxygen in special sacs near their gills, per the NPS.

Can you imagine having to hold your breath to leave home? A ghost crab can! Ghost crabs live in burrows that can be...

Posted by Padre Island National Seashore on Wednesday, June 2, 2021

When not hibernating, ghost crabs will periodically wet their gills in order to filter oxygen from the sea or the water at the bottom of their burrows. Although they cannot swim, they sometimes enter the shallows, not only to replenish water and oxygen but to escape predators, such as birds and raccoons, according to the NPS.

Officials said ghost crabs spend most of their time housekeeping and bugging burrows.

“Ghost crabs make golf ball-sized entrance holes in the dry sand. These tunnels can go deeper than three to four feet, extending to the water table below. Their sandy homes open into a chamber which ghost crabs design for a space in which to turn around,” the agency wrote on its website.

Ghost crabs also have the ability to see 360 degrees simultaneously but are unable to see directly overhead, according to NPS.

Most likely, you can find these creatures at night, when they are looking for prey; crabs, clams, lizards, insects and detritus.

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