Calicp Crab at Rookery Bay Research Reserve | National Estuarine Research Reserve

Calico Crab

Hepatus ephiliticus
As a walking crab, the calico crab’s back legs are peg-like rather than shaped like flattened paddles for swimming, as seen on a blue crab. They are in the same family as shame-faced or box crabs, and are sometimes referred to as Dolly Varden crabs. These crabs are scavengers rather than hunters.

Where to Find

This colorful crab relatively common in the Gulf, burrowing in sandy areas in shallow water.

Common Snapping Shrimp

Alpheus heterochaelis
The snapping shrimp’s enlarged claw produces a sound loud enough to be heard above water or outside an aquarium. The release of tension by muscles in the claw creates a shock wave strong enough to stun small fish or invertebrates. The snapping shrimp then pulls its prey into its burrow. Snapping shrimp range in color from semi-translucent to dark green.

Where to Find

Common snapping shrimp prefer to live in quiet, shallow water under oyster rubble or in sponges.
Common Snapping Shrimp Wildlife in Naples | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Ghost Crabs at Rookery Bay Research Reserve | National Estuarine Research Reserve

Ghost Crab

Ocypode quadrata
The nocturnal ghost crab stands erect on the tips of its legs; hence it is amazingly quick and agile. This beach dwelling crab is almost white in color and reaches lengths up to 5″. It has strong claws for crushing its prey, making this an active predator of clams and sea turtles.

Where to Find

It lives in burrows under the sand during the day in order to keep its gills moist. Ghost crab burrows typically have multiple tunnel entrances, which are easily spotted along the dunes of Key Island.

Giant Hermit Crab

Petrochirus diogenes
The giant hermit crab is the largest marine hermit crab in North America. Its carapace (external skeleton) is red or purple with noticeably large, scale-like bumps. Like other hermit crabs, this species has a soft tail and uses an abandoned snail shell as its protective mobile home. Small tabs along the crab’s bottom help it maintain a grip inside the shell so that it can recoil inside for protection. As the hermit crab grows, it must find larger shells to occupy. Hermits are generally secretive when changing shells due to their vulnerability to predators during that process.

Where to Find

Giant hermit crabs can be found from North Carolina south to Brazil, throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Young hermit crabs may be found in estuaries while adults are common around near and offshore reefs.
Giant Hermit Crabs at Rookery Bay Research Reserve | National Estuarine Research Reserve
Mantis Shrimp at Rookery Bay Research Reserve | National Estuarine Research Reserve

Mantis Shrimp

Squilla empusa
Mantis shrimp get their name from their “praying mantis-like” appearance, although they are not true shrimp. They have claws that strike out with incredible speed and power, able to instantly chop small fish in half. These crustaceans are also known as thumb splitters among shrimp fishermen who must watch for these voracious predators in their nets. Mantis shrimp are nocturnal and are sometimes caught during night trawls in the Reserve. Mantis shrimp have more complex eyes than ours with some species haing upto sixteen different types of photoreceptors, twelve of which are devoted to color. The human human eye has three.

Where to Find

Mantis shrimp spend a majority of their time living in burrows they create and they often build their burrows in soft sediments.

Spider Crab

Libinia species
There are 2 species of spider crab in this genus found in the reserve. Following fertilization the female crab carries her eggs in a special brood pouch on her belly. When the eggs hatch she expells the larvae into the water column where they start life as plankton. Lacking strong claws they rely on camouflage to protect themsleves from predators. They will collect algea, worms, sponge and stick it on their backs to hide from predators.

Where to Find

This spider crab is native to southwest Florida waters.

Watch the video below to see the spider crab in action!

Spider Crabs at Rookery Bay Research Reserve | National Estuarine Research Reserve

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