So frustrating! No matter what I did, I just couldn’t catch a break. I knew enough not to touch – but photos were tough too.
I’m talking about Sally Lightfoot crabs in the Galapagos…I was captivated by these crabs – they are so cute! OK, maybe cute isn’t the right word but they demand your attention – or at least my attention. I was so delighted when I would see them that others on our boat would start to point them out. One of the photos (better one of the right sidebar):
I was so fascinated by these crabs and I’d forget to take a photo until the circumstances were all wrong. Sadly, I’ve lost many of my photos from our 2006 trip (will have to go back) but I don’t think there was a great picture of the ‘Sallies’ as I called them. I spent a lot of time watching these crabs, eating away at the algae on the rocks.
This Sally Lightfoot crab (Grapsus grapsus) is found in the Galapagos and along the Pacific coast. The most striking photos seem to come from the Galapagos where the crab clings to the black lava. There are lots of Sally Lightfoot crabs along the shoreline and they seem perfectly happy in pounding surf. We were told that there are no vertical lines to catch the full force of the surf – helped by their flatter legs and shells? The surf did seem to push them into the lava rock – I didn’t see one crab fall off the rock after a wave (not to say it didn’t happen but I never saw a crab in free fall after being ripped away from the rock).
These bright crabs are everywhere and I couldn’t wonder why they weren’t eaten. They stand out against the black lava so is it a feast for birds? Are there lots of baby Sally Lightfoot crabs but a select few older ones? I couldn’t get a straight answer but they are hard to catch!
No, I didn’t try to grab any of them but I did try to get close for a decent photo. And after reading about Steinbeck’s experience, I did try to get closer (but within limits of wildlife tours). Because I can’t improve upon Steinbeck, I’ll share his words from The Log from the Sea of Cortez:
They seem to be able to run in any of four directions; but more than this, perhaps because of their rapid reaction time, they appear to read the mind of their hunter. They escape the long-handled net, anticipating from what direction it is coming. If you walk slowly, they move slowly ahead of you in droves. If you hurry, they hurry. When you plunge at them, they seem to disappear in a puff of blue smoke—at any rate, they disappear. It is impossible to creep up on them. They are very beautiful, with clear brilliant colors, red and blues and warm browns.
I found it interesting that the young crabs are dark brown and blend into the rock. Does that give them time to perfect their dodging skills?
Like many other species, the Sally Lightfoot crabs are endangered. Some students from Stanford describe their experience saving one of these delightful crabs.