The Golden Ghost Crab (Ocypode convexa) – also known as the Western Ghost Crab or the Yellow Ghost Crab – are named after their golden coloured shell.
These crabs grow up to 45mm long and 52mm wide, with a box-like body shape and large, elongated eye stalks.
The genus Ocypode to which they belong, means ‘swift foot’ which refers to Ghost Crabs being one of the fastest animals on the planet. If they were as large as a human or cheetah they would reach speeds of around 340 to 530 km/hr. There are five species of Ocypodes or Ghost Crabs endemic to Western Australia.
Golden Ghost crabs are semi-terrestrial and inhabit open sandy beaches. Their burrows are around 1 metre deep and found in the intertidal and supratidal zones. Being semi-terrestrial they still need to return to the ocean periodically to keep their gills wet and are therefore restricted to living within 200 metres of the waterline.
Golden Ghost crabs are Omnivorous generalist feeders, consuming detritus and carrion. However, they are known as predators and will consume small animals. They have been noted as significant predators of the eggs and hatchlings of Western Australian sea turtles, particularly the endangered Loggerhead Sea Turtle.
After mating, the females carry developing eggs under their bodies. Once they are ready, she will release them into the ocean for the next stage of their lifecycle. These larvae will metamorphose before returning back to the shoreline.
There are many known threats to Golden Ghost Crabs. Human activities on beaches – in particular vehicle movement – have a significant impact on populations, as they can become crushed by the weight of the vehicles driving over their burrows. This is most apparent on beaches adjacent to urban areas.
Shorebirds and gulls are native predators but they are also preyed on by introduced rats, cats and dogs.