Spiny Sand (Mole) Crab

Blepharipoda occidentalis

Order: 

Decapoda

Family: 

Blepharipodidae

The mole crab is a very small crustacean with the shell averaging to approximately 3.75cm in length. While the shell is egg-shaped, the body color is yellowish white with purplish markings (1).  The E.analoga spends the majority of its time buried within the sand.  To feed within the sand, the sand crab burrows backwards into the sand.  As waves flow over the E.analoga, the crab uncoils a second pair of feather-like antennae that filters out tiny plankton.  While the geographic location of the mole crab ranges from Alaska to Baja California, the general habitat includes beaches, dunes, and the rocky intertidal zone.  Since the crustacean has a variety of predators including seabirds, shore birds, and fish, fishermen commonly use the crab as bait.

 

(1) “Mole crab.” Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/animal/mole-crab.

(2)“Sand crab.” Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation, https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/invertebrates/sand-crab.

Photographs © John White