, Volume 560, Issue 1, pp 43–49 | Cite as

Burrow Architecture of the Ghost Crab Ocypode ceratophthalma on a Sandy Shore in Hong Kong

  • Benny Kwok Kan Chan
  • Karen Kit Yu Chan
  • Philip Cheuk Man Leung
Primary Research Paper


The ghost crab Ocypode ceratophthalma (Pallas) creates burrows of variety shapes at different ages. Juveniles (mean carapace length 11 mm) produced shallow J-shaped burrows, which incline vertically into the substratum (mean depth 160 mm). Larger crabs (17–25 mm carapace length) have Y-shaped and spiral burrows (mean depth 361 mm). These Y-shaped burrows have a primary arm, which extends to the surface forming the opening, and a secondary arm which terminates in a blind spherical ending. The two arms join in a single shaft and end with a chamber at the base. The secondary arms and chambers are believed to be used for mating or as a refuge from predation. The spiral burrows have spiral single channel ending in a chamber. Older crabs (mean carapace length 32.6 mm) had simple, straight single tube burrows, which inclined into the substratum at mean of 73° and had a mean depth of 320 mm. During summer daytime periods, the burrows shelter the crabs from heat and desiccation stress. The sand surface temperature at the burrow opening was ~48 °C but temperatures inside the burrows can drop to 32 °C at a depth of 250 mm. Variation in the burrow architecture with crab age appears to be related to the crab’s behaviour. Juvenile crabs have smaller gill areas and move out of the burrows regularly to renew their respiratory water and, as a result, they do not need a deep burrow. Larger crabs, in contrast, can tolerate prolonged periods without renewing their respiratory water and therefore create deeper and more complex burrows for mating and refuges.


ghost crabs Ocypode ceratophthalma burrows sandy shores Hong Kong 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benny Kwok Kan Chan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Karen Kit Yu Chan
    • 1
  • Philip Cheuk Man Leung
    • 1
  1. 1.The Swire Institute of Marine Science, Department of Ecology & BiodiversityThe University of Hong KongHong Kong
  2. 2.Research Centre for Biodiversity, Academia SinicaTaipeiTaiwan, ROC

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