Crustaceans are a highly successful group of arthropods adapted to marine ecosystems. Crabs, shrimp, copepods (a type of zooplankton), and lobsters are just a few of the crustaceans that call Assateague home.
On Assateague the most commonly observed crustaceans are crabs. Note that most crabs are aquatic species, including all of our native hermit crabs. A few species found on Assateague are semi-terrestrial. Ghost crabs and fiddler crabs bear gills that are specialized for pulling oxygen from the air rather than the water. As adults, these particular crabs can only survive a short period submerged underwater.
Ghost crab (Ocypode quadrata)
Ghost Crab (Ocypode quadrata)

NPS photo

When strolling the beach at night, you may encounter nocturnal ghost crabs scurrying along the beach. Their scientific name, Ocypode quadrata meaning swift-footed, holds true as you will be amazed how quickly these small crustaceans will run from you!
Fiddler crab (Uca pugnax)

NPS photo

Our other semi-terrestrial crab, the fiddler crab (Uca pugnax/ Uca pugilator) can be seen in masses in the mud and outlying sand of the marshes. The males are easily identified, having one claw larger than the other, which is used to attract a mate. You will notice that where there are fiddler crabs there are also burrows surrounded by many mud and sand balls. These balls are remnants of digging burrows and eating detritus.
Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus)
Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus)

NPS Photo

One of the most sought after crabs are the blue crab whose Latin name, Callinectes sapidus means beautiful, savory swimmer. The greenish/brown coloring of the carapace allows for the blue crab to blend in with the muddy bottom. As the crab matures, the blue on the claws becomes more vivid. Crabbing is a popular recreational activity for all ages. With a string, some bait and a net, your family can be occupied for hours while catching a fresh dinner! For more information, size limits and regulations please read our crabbing brochure or stop by the visitor centers.

Last updated: July 28, 2018

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