Sally Lightfoot is the name of a type of crab that lives on the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines of the Americas, from Florida down to Brazil and Mexico down to Chile,(1,2,3,4) as well as on nearby islands such as the Galápagos (1,2,3,4,5) and along the Atlantic coast of Africa.(2,6) Their backs can measures about 5-8 centimeters across, and their body is bright red with various patterns (though their bodies are darker-colored when they are young), and have ten legs.(2,4) Sally Lightfoot crabs, also known as red rock crabs(1) (although the adults can really be many colors from red to orange to brown(4)), spend most of their time hiding away in rock crevices.(4,7) But when they come out to feed—mainly during low tide (4,5,7) and less sunny parts of the day (3)—they move with the remarkable agility and speed that give them their name, “Sally Lightfoot.”(2,4) While they eat, powerful waves often crash over them, but they survive this by flattening themselves against rocks and holding on tightly.(2,4) These crabs mainly eat red and green algae,(2,4,5) but will gobble down practically anything they can get,(4) including mussels, barnacles, other crabs, young sea turtles, dead fish, and the young of seabirds such as boobies.(3,4) Their big appetite means that they also help clean the beach of material such as broken eggs and dried bird and bat droppings.(3,4) Through their role as predators, grazers, and cleaners, and also through their role as prey for many animals including large birds, octopuses, Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, and chain moray eels,(4) Sally Lightfoot crabs can be an important part of their environment.(3,5)
- 1. Johnson, Markes E., Paul M. Karabinos, and Victor Mendia. “Quaternary Intertidal Deposits Intercalated with Volcanic Rocks on Isla Sombrero Chino in the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador).” Journal of Coastal Research 26.4 (2010): 762-768.
- 2. Davis, Christopher. “Marine Invertebrates of Bermuda: Sally Lightfoot Crab (Grapsus grapsus).” The Cephalopod Page. 6 Jul. 2011. http://www.thecephalopodpage.org/MarineInvertebrateZoology/Grapsusgrapsus.html
- 3. Gianuca, Dimas and Carolus Maria Vooren. “Abundance and Behavior of the Sally Lightfoot Crab (Grapsus grapsus) in the Colony of the Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) in the São Pedro and São Paulo Archipelago.” Investigaciones Marinas 35.2 (2007): 121-125.
- 4. Shapiro, Leo. “Grapsus grapsus (Linnaeus, 1758).” EOL Species Rapid Response. 6 Jul. 2011. http://eolspecies.lifedesks.org/pages/15872
- 5. Vinueza, L. R., G. M. Branch, M. L. Branch, and R. H. Bustamante. “Top-Down Herbivory and Bottom-Up El Niño Effects on Galápagos Rocky-Shore Communities.” Ecological Monographs 76.1 (2006): 111-131.
- 6. Kensley, B. F. “The Occurrence of Grapsus grapsus tenuicruistatus (Herbst) at the Tsitsikama Coastal National Park (Decapoda, Brachyura, Grapsidae.” Koedoe 13 (1970): 127-130.
- 7. Johnson, Garland E. “An Ethological Study of the Rock Crab, Grapsus grapsus (Family Grapsidae) with Emphasis on Behavior Variations during Ontogeny and with Habitat.” American Zoologist 5.4 (1965): 632.
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