Blackback Land Crab

Blackback Land Crab
This Blackback land crab is sitting next to the exoskeleton that it has just molted.

Photo Courtesy of National Geographic

If you happen to be cooking out on the beach at night and you feel something stumble into your toes, it may be a Blackback land crab looking for a late night snack. This colorful, reddish-orange crab with a large, black spot on its carapace, can be around 4.5 inches wide, and is found along the Eastern Atlantic as well as Gulf coastlines.

While it is a land crab that burrows in marshes, mangroves and beaches, it must return to the ocean to breed. There, its larvae are released into the water. It also needs to enter the saltwater shallows to moisten its gills. When Blackback land crabs molt, they survive by creating a temporary shell using a combination of air and internal fluids to increase the pressure inside of their bodies. This “air skeleton” creates a temporary tightness until their newly secreted larger shell hardens. While this crab is mainly an herbivore, it will also feed on animal matter, so be sure to keep a close eye on your campstoves and grill pits or your dinner may disappear.

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Last updated: September 21, 2016

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