Species species of the Week week #3 OR Foaming with rage and bruised all over the chest

Post previously published at Rah Rah Radula.

Grapsus grapsus
(The Sally Lightfoot Crab)
Dang, Sally, you pretty!
The whimsically named and colored Grapsus grapsus.

John Steinbeck will undoubtedly provide a much more interesting perspective on this whimsically named (in both Latin and common) Grapsus grapsus than I ever could. So, I leave it to him to describe this tropical member of the Grapsid family:

Many people have spoken at length of the Sally Lightfoots. In fact, everyone who has seen them has been delighted with them. The very name they are called by reflects the delight of the name. These little crabs, with brilliant cloisonné carapaces, walk on their tiptoes, They have remarkable eyes and an extremely fast reaction time. In spite of the fact that they swarm on the rocks at the Cape, and to a less degree inside the Gulf, they are exceedingly hard to catch. They seem to be able to run in any of four directions; but more than this, perhaps because of their rapid reaction time, they appear to read the mind of their hunter. They escape the long-handled net, anticipating from what direction it is coming. If you walk slowly, they move slowly ahead of you in droves. If you hurry, they hurry. When you plunge at them, they seem to disappear in a puff of blue smoke—at any rate, they disappear. It is impossible to creep up on them. They are very beautiful, with clear brilliant colors, red and blues and warm browns.
Man reacts peculiarly but consistently in his relationship with Sally Lightfoot. His tendency eventually is to scream curses, to hurl himself at them, and to come up foaming with rage and bruised all over his chest. Thus, Tiny, leaping forward, slipped and fell and hurt his arm. He never forgot nor forgave his enemy. From then on he attacked Lightfoots by every foul means he could contrive and a training in Monterey street fighting has equipped him well for this kind of battle. He hurled rocks at them; he smashed at them with boards; and he even considered poisoning them. Eventually we did catch a few Sallys, but we think they were the halt and the blind, the simpletons of their species. With reasonably well-balanced and non-neurotic Lightfoots we stood no chance.

-- The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951)(1)
Hit Parade:
  • Grapsus grapsus have been reported to remove the ticks from marine iguanas - how thoughtful, AND delicious!(2)
  • Here is an educational video in Portuguese, complete with whimsical music. I certainly do not speak this language, but it's pretty footage and I do think I recognized the phrase "voracious predator". If anyone wants to offer a translation of the narration...
  • Our most common local Grapsids are Hemigrapsus oregonensis and Hemigrapsus nudus, which can be found on almost any salty beach around town, scuttling away from overturned rocks. My dog Jay used to think they were little chicken nuggets with legs.

References and miscellany:
(1) A highly, highly recommended read. I enjoyed being reminded that I missed the golden days of ocean exploration and could still pretend I was doing reading for "work" by learning about beasties along distant coasts.
(2) Beebe, W. (1924). Galapagos: World's End. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

-- Emily Grason


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