Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Atlantic ghost crab

with 42 comments

Another find on the beach at the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail along the Gulf of Mexico in Brazoria County on October 6th was a juvenile Atlantic ghost crab, Ocypode quadrata, which wasn’t much more than an inch across. As it scuttled about sideways on the sand, I eventually got close enough with my 100mm macro lens to make a few decent portraits. According to the Wikipedia article about ghost crabs, “the name… derives from their nocturnality and their generally pale coloration.” This crab was obviously trying out some diurnality, which is what made it possible for me to take pictures.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 24, 2019 at 4:44 AM

42 Responses

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  1. In addition to its nocturnal habits, it must also be rather ghostly blending into all that sand.

    Steve Gingold

    October 24, 2019 at 5:25 AM

    • Being pale and blending into the sand is how I initially took the “ghost” in the common name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2019 at 7:53 AM

  2. Wonderfully done. I didn’t realize their patterning is so complex; it certainly helps them blend into their surroundings. Kudos to the macro lens, and to a photographer willing to do a little scuttling of his own in order to get the photo.


    October 24, 2019 at 6:20 AM

    • Thanks. I do a fair amount of scuttling in my métier. The crab’s patterning does a great job of letting it look like just another bit of beach sand. Unfortunately for the crab, its shadow undoes some of the camouflage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2019 at 8:01 AM

    • Speaking about blending in, Shannon’s comment (three after yours) proves that I did zero blending in.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2019 at 8:23 AM

      • Even with the frustrations of trying to photograph such a tiny, fast-moving creature you never seemed a bit crabby yourself. Watching you stalk the crab reminded me of Annie Dillard’s reflections on stalking a muskrat:

        ”Stalking is a pure form of skill, like pitching or playing chess. Rarely is luck involved. I do it right or I do it wrong; the muskrat will tell me, and that right early. Even more than baseball, stalking is a game played in the actual present. At every second, the muskrat comes, or stays, or goes, depending on my skill.”


        October 25, 2019 at 10:53 PM

        • I think of myself as having more persistence than skill, with many critters moving away before I get a decent picture.

          Your use of stalk suddenly made me wonder whether I’d ever appreciated the pun in the title of Euell Gibbons’s book Stalking the Wild Asparagus. And with stalks still in mind, now I’m wondering if anyone has turned asparagus into aspearagus.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 26, 2019 at 6:54 AM

          • I don’t know about that, but when I was a child and we grew asparagus in the back yard, I called it “asper grass.”


            October 26, 2019 at 8:22 AM

            • That’s a new one on me. Asper in Latin means ‘rough’ (compare asperity), but I’m pretty sure the child you didn’t know that. Some people in England who weren’t familiar with asparagus turned the name into sparrow grass, two things that they were familiar with.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 26, 2019 at 8:31 AM

  3. A. Mazing.

    Michael Scandling

    October 24, 2019 at 6:48 AM

  4. Lucky you that he ventured out! This is an amazing shot of a really incredible looking creature. I never would have guessed he was so tiny in real life. What camouflage!

    Birder's Journey

    October 24, 2019 at 7:08 AM

    • Lucky that we all ventured out simultaneously. I began taking pictures from farther away than I wanted to, just to be sure of getting something. Gradually I worked my way ahead, but whenever I got too close or moved too quickly, the crab also moved. Fortunately it paused between movements and I could then slowly keep decreasing my distance. This picture is the last of 13, taken when I was closest, and even then I had to crop in to what is about half the total area of the image.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2019 at 8:13 AM

  5. I wondered how cooperative that little guy was! They are not the easiest to shoot, lightning fast. I shot you shooting the crab … I cut your hat off a bit, blame it on the bright sun. ☀️ Mr. Crab apparently didn’t stick around.


    October 24, 2019 at 7:34 AM

    • Thanks for your portrait, which I had no idea you took. I seem to have been looking outside the frame of the picture, waiting to see what the crab would do. If you let me know the time stamp on your image, I can match it against the photographs I took to see where in the sequence yours is.

      Don’t worry about cutting the hat. It’s a Tilley, and it comes with a lifetime replacement warranty.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2019 at 8:20 AM

      • I think I snapped it right after you got your awesome shot. We’ll see if I’m right: 11:52a is the time stamp.


        October 24, 2019 at 10:10 AM

        • I seem to have taken my last picture of the crab, the one shown here, at 11:53. I say “seems to” because I discovered that my camera’s clock had slowly drifted away from the correct time and I had to make a 13-minute adjustment.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 24, 2019 at 12:50 PM

  6. The camouflage of the ghost crab is truly amazing. Great discovery at the beach, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    October 24, 2019 at 8:21 AM

    • A great discovery indeed, Peter. I knew to expect birds but not a crab with excellent camouflage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2019 at 8:26 AM

  7. I’m not sure I would even have spotted this little cutie. I really admire this beautiful shot. The portrait of Steve G. I took for you at first. 🙂


    October 24, 2019 at 9:12 AM

    • I forget how I or someone else in the group noticed the little crab.
      The hatted photographer in Shannon’s comment is me.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 24, 2019 at 9:46 AM

  8. Love the patterns and detail!


    October 24, 2019 at 9:04 PM

  9. Nice shot, Steve. 🦀

    Jane Lurie

    October 24, 2019 at 9:05 PM

  10. This ghostly portrait of a crab,
    A photographer from Texas did nab.
    Despite being only an inch wide,
    From Steve’s camera it couldn’t hide.
    Shakespeare my name is not,
    But it’s all the poetry I got.

    (With my apologies to all true poets).


    October 24, 2019 at 9:32 PM

  11. nice work….persistence and some luck.


    October 25, 2019 at 7:31 AM

  12. A wonderful capture of an amusing little critter!


    October 25, 2019 at 4:25 PM

    • I was pleased to get a decent picture, given how small the crab was and how it scuttled away each time I got too close. Perhaps it thought of me as an anything-but-amusing big critter.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 25, 2019 at 4:29 PM

  13. Love the pair of the ghost crab and the photo of you taking it. I used to see pale, small crabs we called ghost crabs on the Sea Islands in GA – I don’t know if they’re the same, but they’re all pretty cool little creatures.


    November 3, 2019 at 12:25 PM

    • From the little I’ve read since then, ghost crabs of various sorts live in many places, so I assume the grabs you remember from Georgia really are part of the group.

      Glad you liked the picture of the photographer stalking his prey.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 3, 2019 at 1:38 PM

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