The Fiddler Crab
By Trish Elliott
Zach McKenna, the owner and operator of St. Augustine Ecotours.com, strives to both support and expand ecotourism. Zach grew up in the marshes of Hilton Head, South Carolina, and worked as a naturalist and guide as a young man, which fueled his passion for marine life. He graduated from Flager College in St. Augustine with a business degree and after spending some time in Colorado, put down his roots in St. Augustine in 2003, beginning his ecotourism business. Zach and his educated staff strive to create adventurous yet respectful experiences for all ages.
Zach has his Masters degree in Coastal Biology at University of Flager, and is a major contributor in both academic research of the flora and fauna of the area and wildlife rescues of birds, marine reptiles, dolphins, and manatees. Zach’s specialty is bottle nosed dolphins, which populate the area around St. Augustine, and he has even listened and recorded dolphins as they communicate with each other.
Zach and his naturalist staff have special tours to explore the area, by boat and kayak, and one of their fascinating adventures is to explore the beaches, to learn about and examine an array of marine worms, oysters, sea grasses, algae, jellyfish a the huge spectrum of coastal birds and the tiny fiddler crab, including both the marsh fiddler crab and the sand fiddler crab.
The fiddler crab, an invertebrate and shellfish, plays a vital role in salt marsh ecology, because they burrow to nest, and their burrowing helps keep marshes clean and helps them grow. They also aerate the sediment on the bottom by their digging.
The name of fiddler crab comes from the wildly different sizes of the male claws. One claw is much larger than the other, and resembles a fiddle, and all fiddler crabs have a similar shape, with a square body and a smooth carapace. Their eyes are located at the end of their long, slender carapaces. They burrow and hibernate in the winter, and can travel in groups of thousands, which is an amazing sight.
With this one larger claw, the male fiddler waves it around to attract females and to fight off other males. They hide in their burrows when they sense predators, or the tide comes in.
The marsh crab has two small, equal-sized claws and a square back with eyestalks on the outer corners of the carapace. Marsh crabs burrow with fiddler crabs, and although they are herbivores, they sometimes prey on the fiddlers.
Although fiddler crabs are not rare or endangered, they are a vital part of the coastal ecosystem. The thumbnail-sized fiddler crabs are a favorite food of snook, redfish, ibis, yellow-crowned night herons, raccoons, foxes, and a host of other predators.
Come to St. Augustine to view these tiny creatures, along with manatees, bottle-nosed dolphins, and a bevy of sea creatures and plants, to learn more about the sea and marshland ecosystems. Zach McKenna and his staff will make sure you have an amazing experience!
Book your adventure with Zach and team today: St Augustine Eco Tours