Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the December 29, 2008 written at Mayan Beach Garden Inn on the Costa Maya, Quintana Roo, México

On Christmas morning I found at the water's edge the four-inch wide Flame Box Crab, CALAPPA FLAMMEA, shown below.


He was freshly dead, and I have no idea what disaster had befallen him. But I'd been looking for such a crab picture, because if you just walk the beach during the day you get the impression that about the only crab out there is the Ghost Crab we talked about earlier.

But, the "Reef Creature" field guide on the table in the Reception Room contains pages and pages describing hermit crabs, porcelain crabs, mud crabs, box crabs, pea crabs, swimming crabs, clinging crabs, teardrop crabs, sponge crabs and hosts of other kinds of crabs as well. As suggested by our Flame Box Crab, those species come in every imaginable shape, color, skin texture and adaptation. Our dead Flame Box Crab is a good, randomly encountered representative of the impossibly beautiful offshore world that, when you experience it, enlarges you, makes you happy, and fills you with more profound insights into what's going on with Life on Earth.

The Flame Box Crab occurs from the Caribbean area and Bermuda north to Massachusetts. The field guide says that it inhabits sand flats and areas of mixed sand and rubble, and often buries in sand. Marcia says that they're often seen when you snorkel, and as you pass over them they often just sit there, maybe depending on their camouflage.