Sun, sand and surf are all that comes to mind when planning a trip to the beach. These three elements almost invariably cloud out everything else. If anything else, we might indulge in building sand-castles or perhaps long walks on the sand at sunset!
It was one such evening while walking along the water’s edge during a visit to the Devbagh Beach Resort near Karwar that I was treated to one of the most beautiful creatures that I had ever seen – probably a crab. Spines on either side of its body and legs that were flattened gave it a very non-crab appearance at first sight.
The creature that I was staring at had an almost circular body which was about 4 cm across. But the flattened appendages intrigued me and left me wondering what these adaptations could possibly mean.
This was the Moon Crab (Matuta sp.), also sometimes referred to as the Sandy shore crab. It spends the day buried in sand. Its spade-like appendages are used to dig into the sand and for swimming!
When these crabs come out to forage in the night, they are known to feed on small creatures – be it worms, clams, and other small animals – that they can overpower. They also seem to have a special taste for dead fish!
Adult females have been found to be capable of producing more than one batch of eggs from a single mating with each batch containing about 65,000 eggs!
Moon Crabs have a very wide distribution. They are known to occur all the way from the Red Sea, through much of Asia to Australia where it is common in the Great Barrier Reef.