Blue Land Crabs, Yellowtail damselfish, Grunts, Needlefish

(Top) Blue Land Crab
(Bottom) Juvenile Purple Land Crab

The blue land crab is also known as the white land crab or great land crab. It is a large burrowing crab whose distribution on land is generally limited to within 5 km of the ocean. Large individuals may grow to over 11 cm and weigh over 500 grams. Its eyes are stalked and fairly widespread, and males have one enlarged front claw. Adults of both sexes have carapaces (a hard bony outer covering) which range in color from dark blue to various shades of brown to gray/white. The adult color pattern is well developed in most crabs by the time they reach 80-90 grams; however, some may attain180 grams before they show an adult pattern. In its juvenile form, the crab is a dark brown, purple, or orange in color. Females sometimes appear light gray or white. They are by nature shy and pose no threat to humans unless caught and handled. Then they are capable of inflicting a memorable pinch.

The blue land crab is a circumequatorial (occurring around the equatorial region) species found throughout estuarine regions of the Caribbean, Central and South America including Columbia, Venezuela, the Bahamas, and Puerto Rico. It is found in greatest concentration on low lying ground, and burrow concentrations in these optimum habitat areas may exceed 7,500 creatures per acre. In Central and South America, as well as in the Bahamas, the blue land crab is exploited for food. As adults, land crabs are terrestrial (land-dwelling) and are found within a close radius of the shoreline, returning to the sea only to drink or breed. They live in burrows several feet deep or at least to a level that will allow water to seep in for moisture. Giant land crabs are primarily vegetarians, preferring tender leaves, fruits, berries, flowers and some vegetables. Occasionally they will eat beetles or other large insects.

One of the most unusual features of the giant land crab, its burrowing behavior, also makes it a nuisance to humans living close to the shore. The adult life of the land crab is spent away from salt water. The adult will dig burrows 3 to 5in (8 to 13cm) wide and up to 5ft (1.5m) deep. These burrows can be damaging to lawns and gardens. Control of these crabs by chemical means is dangerous to humans and their environment. No chemicals are registered for control of land crabs because of the possible negative effects on groundwater quality. No state or federal laws regulate their harvest or protection. Capture and removal using live traps baited with crab food items or trapping with nets is recommended. Both methods are effective particularly on moonlit nights during warmer, wetter months since land crabs are more active then. Live-trapped land crabs are edible, especially the claws.

You don’t have to get in to the water to see colorful tropical fish. If you are patient, and stand very still near the calm waters edge or on a boat dock, you will soon be delighted by a kaleidoscope of swimming fishes. For these juvenile fish the shallow shore waters serve as a form of protection from larger fish as well as supply an abundant source of food.

Yellowtail damselfish are approximately 4 to 7.5 inches long with a dark body and yellow tail; their young have bright blue dots on a dark blue body. The foureye butterflyfish has a short snout and a large black spot surrounded by a white ring on body below the rear of dorsal fin. The body is whitish, with narrow, dark, diagonal lines that meet at mid-side, forming a series of forward- pointing chevrons. Sergeant major fish are stout, strongly compressed damselfish. They are greenish yellow above, shading to white below, with five prominent vertical black bars that narrow toward the belly with a dark spot at the pectoral fin base.

The fish of the grunt family are known in Mexico as “burros”. They are similar in appearance to the snappers. When collected, these fish grunt audibly by rubbing together tooth plates in their throats. Most grunts are small schooling fishes that swarm over reefs during the day and move to sandy shoals at night. They feed primarily at night on invertebrates such as shrimp, clams, and worms. The stripes of juveniles are more prominent than in adults.

Needlefish are piscivorous (fish-eating) fishes usually associated with shallow marine habitats or the surface of the open sea. They closely resemble gars in being elongate and having long, narrow jaws filled with sharp teeth, and some species of needlefish are referred to as gars or garfish despite being only distantly related to the true gars. Needlefish are in fact related to flying fish.

Needlefish feed primarily on smaller fishes, which they catch with a sideways sweep of the head. In addition some species will also take plankton, swimming crustaceans, and small cephalopods. Needlefish are most common in the tropics but some inhabit temperate waters as well, particularly during the summer months.

If you are real lucky you may even spot a stingray or a barracuda during your explorations, and if you are walking near The Victoria House there is a resident green moray eel that lives in the rocks close to their sea wall by their dock. Now THAT is a treat to see!

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