Photo by Tracy Parris
As you walk over the dunes towards the beach or sit at your picnic table eating lunch, you may catch a glimpse of a ghost crab scuttling across the sand or peering out of its cool, shaded burrow. While they are one of the most commonly seen crustaceans at Padre Island National Seashore, they are just one of 41 crustacean species that have been documented in the park. Crustaceans include such familiar animals as crabs, crayfish, lobsters, shrimp, and barnacles. Most species are aquatic, living in either fresh or salt water habitats, but some have adapted to life on land.
Though crustaceans are oftentimes small creatures, remember that they are valued residents to the unique and fragile ecosystems in which they live. Some burrow into the mud of marshes, creating a complex maze of tunnels that aerate the marsh grasses and underwater seagrass meadows. Many species eat dead or decomposing plant and animal matter, providing healthy soils for new plant growth. Certain crustaceans are also indicators to scientists for signs of pollution and other types of ecosystem damage. Economically, certain species such as lobsters, crab, and shrimp, have sustained cultures and commercial fishing-based communities for generations.
Click on any of the links below to learn more about the specific crustaceans that can most often be seen at the National Seashore.