Friday, May 7, 2010

Walking with the Fiddler crabs

As I have written before my usual walk is on a spit of land about a mile long [Long Beach -- surprising name?] with the ocean on the south side and an inlet of a small creek on the other. The creek side has areas of salt marsh. The path is beside the water only a quarter of the way and otherwise a narrow beaten path in the marsh. All along the path and beside it are neat round holes -- homes of the fiddler crabs. The picture above is actually on my track. The picture below is from Wikipedia so you can see the strange, awkward looking single claw of these little creatures. In the past two weeks they have been out by the hundreds, scurrying along, diving into their holes at footfall, if they are near enough, otherwise swarming into the marsh grass.
I have just read the Wiki entry and was reminded of what I had been told [or maybe I read] before. Only the males have the claw. Which means I see about twice as many females as males. The ones I see are about an inch and a half long and the majority seem to be the same size.

Not stepping on them takes concentration. So far as I know I have not stepped on any but sometimes I take to the grassy areas to avoid the thick swarms on the path and worry that I am stepping on ones hiding under the grass. My intentions are to walk without harming them. They are not pretty or endearing but they are clearly sensate creatures eager to survive and they seem to be thriving. I don't know if they have natural enemies. I have never seen a bird trying to eat one. Perhaps they are protected by their claws and shells and have too little meat on their surely very tiny bodies to be worth eating if you're a gull or plover.

Many people find creatures of this size and general ugliness repulsive or just icky. Rachel doesn't like to see them at all and I've warned her against walking that path around midday. I am not repulsed by them and somewhat curious about their lives. The majority of their holes are covered with water when the tide is high, so when the tide is low what are they looking for on the land? Are they mating this time of year? Are there tiny insects that they eat or is it plant material that is their diet? I'll have to explore the Wiki references one of these days.

When I walk their presence forces me to focus on my footsteps. That is a good thing, for I can walk beside the ocean on the other side of the spit and become lost in reverie and barely hear the wash of the waves -- letting those chattering monkeys of the mind take over when awareness would be soothing and peaceful. I even find it peaceful to share the path with the crabs.


Kass said...

I like your picture better. You live in a most interesting place!

Jonas said...

I am quite fond of arthropods courtesy of an amazing professor of invertebrate zoology.

I once read that we possess an innate fear of creatures that do not MOVE in familiar ways (e.g., snakes, crabs, spiders, etc.). Rings true.

What amazes me is the fact that arthropod brains are rather tiny, so they fully utilize nearly 90% of their capability. We, so blessed with neurons, dendrites and synapses let most of them rot fallow.

Rainy said...

I just wanted to say.. I'm jelious ! I love the beach..and all its creatures it has to offer. I visited Port Angeles, WA two years ago and was able to visit a Reef Reserve, and didn't get to see much because the tide was way over.

Just a few months ago my sister in law sent me pictures of this exact same reef with a "low tide" and O-M-Goodness the beautiful creatures that live there !

I used to live in Southern California, and the most I'd ever gotten to see up close were Starfish and itty-bitty crabs. So much of our sea=life are dying off, I dont' think you can even find a sand dollar on a California beach any longer.

(just granting a Wishlist Wish) but adding you to follow you.. :) thanks for sharing the sealife..