Grapsus Grapsus: Sally Lightfoot Crab

April 11, 2013
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The Sally Lightfoot crab is one of the world’s most beautiful crabs. Wow, how often does one hear the two words “beautiful” and “crab” in the same sentence? Well, this is certainly deserved as this hand-sized crab is ornately colored with red, orange, purple and blue coloration. These gorgeous creatures abound throughout the Galapagos Islands, and their typical niche is right at the tide’s edge on lava rocks. It does not matter if it is high tide, low tide, daylight or dark these crabs are at work feeding on algae.

It is easy to tell adult and young Sally Lightfoots apart. The adults are colorful, while young Sally lightfoots are very dark, almost black, which allows them camouflage on the lava substrates. The adults have very keen vision and will run quite rapidly when approached. The large adults also have large pinchers that can give a good nip should a person be foolish enough to try and capture them.

If you are traveling to the archipelago on International Expeditions’ Galapagos Islands cruises, there are several landing sites where Sally Lightfoots are very common.  From a distance, it is very strange to see the black lava shoreline covered in what may appear as moving Christmas ornaments.  As one gets closer, it becomes apparent: OMG those are crabs! Upon closer inspection, either through the zoom lens of a camera or preferably through binoculars, the observer becomes aware of one of the wonders of nature — a stunning crab capable of clinging to rocks that are slippery as glazed ice.  Yes, the Sally Lightfoot is a crab one must see to believe. And please, on your next visit to the islands, take just a little time from watching sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and other amazing vertebrates of the islands took take a look at some of the smaller residents. I do believe you will be rewarded by looking at these amazing creatures of the tide line.
 

Naturalist Greg Greer is a favorite among IE travelers, and has gained a reputation for his friendliness and good humor, along with his incomparable knowledge of natural history, photos and articles have been widely published in books and magazines, including Georgia Outdoor News, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Alabama Outdoor News, Riversedge and Southern Wildlife.