The Sand Bubbler Crab – a master of design in the sand

Have you ever noticed tiny crabs making intricate designs with sand balls in the damp sand and wondered what that’s all about? I have. I had thought maybe the designs were like the Bower Bird, created to entice a mate. Turns out it’s nothing quite as contrived. The Sand Bubbler is merely feeding.

Each grain of sand has a thin coating of nutrients, food for these little critters. They wait out the tide in a little air picket inside their hidey hole, and as soon as tide recedes, out they come. They can be seen busily sifting through the damp sand for hours, rolling the discarded sand into balls and laying it out on the sand to ensure they don’t sift the same sand twice. The longer the tide is out, the more balls they create. Seemingly the pretty patterns are mere coincidence.

I can see dragonflies, and bees, birds, butterflies, and flowers, starfish and fish, straight lines, and even spacing between balls. It’s hard to believe they’re not deliberately making a design! There’s always something to see at the beach!

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