Halloween Crabs: One Crustacean Boasts the Perfect Costume All Year Long
One crustacean is ready for Halloween all year round – the appropriately named Halloween crabs, aka Gecarcinus quadratus, which typically sports a a black upper shell, blood orange legs, bright purple claws and two yellow spots behind their eyes.
These relatively small crustaceans, which are found throughout coastal rain forests of Mexico and Central America, measure two inches across and four inches from claw to claw. They are nocturnal animals that prefer to feed on leaves or seeds. Just before day break, they retire to their burrows under large logs and rocks. (Scroll to read more...)
Generally, the crabs prefer to keep their distance from ocean waters, so they set up camp at least 100 meters inland where they find comfort under the lush rainforest canopy. They are dependent on environments with readily available sources of freshwater, so that they can occasionally wet their whistle. During the wet season each year, Halloween crabs return to the coast to lay eggs like many other terrestrial crustaceans. The young emerge after about a month and remain near the water as they develop through larval stages. Here they forage for small particles along the coastline until they are big enough to travel inland and digest plants.
Since adults primarily feed on leaves and seeds, Halloween crabs help fertilize the soil around them. Essentially, they remove large quantities of leaf litter and subsequently reduce the carbon content of topsoils and enrich lower soil layers. Although, Halloween crabs tend to be picky eaters, favoring some seeds over others, tree density and plant diversity has reduced in forests where the crabs are known to live.
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