13 Curious Types of Crabs

eye-catching crabs underwater illustration

Treehugger / Caitlin Rogers

While crabs may give beach-goers the creeps, some of the species on the list below are sure to pull at your heartstrings. From land-scuttling hermit crabs to sand-digging ghost crabs, the following crustaceans are bound to wow you with their wild appearance and remarkable behaviors.

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Pink Ghost Crab

A close-up of a pink ghost crab making a hole in the sand.
The pink ghost crab is found on the east coast of Africa.

TorriPhoto / Getty Images

This uniquely-colored ghost crab is found exclusively on parts of Africa's east coast from the Eastern Cape Region to Kenya. Like other ghost crabs, the pink ghost crab is a beach scavenger that primarily searches for food at night. Their large eyes allow for 360° vision. Combined with their keen sense of smell, the pink ghost crab can easily detect food nearby. These beautiful crabs stay quite small, usually only growing to about 1.5 inches in length.

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Brown Box Crab

A brown box crab sitting in seagrass.
A brown box crab sitting in seagrass.

Donna Pomeroy

The fuzzy-looking brown box crab is actually a type of king crab. Like other king crabs, the brown box crab lives in cold water, and it's known to live from Southern California all the way up to Alaska's Kodiak Island. Until recently, the brown box crab was mostly caught by accident or used as fishing bait. Now, the brown box crab population, along with other non-traditional crab species, is being explored as an "emerging fishery." Some fishermen are now specifically fishing for the brown box crab, while grant funding is being used to estimate the abundance of the brown box crab to inform catch limits.

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Strawberry Crab

A strawberry crab with white speckles on a lava rock in Hawaii.

Timothy Hearsum / Getty Images

A number of brightly colored reddish crabs with white spots are commonly referred to as "strawberry crabs". Strawberry crabs of various species have been found in Hawaiian Islands, French Polynesia, and most recently, Taiwan. These crabs are among a number of small, brightly-colored coral reef crabs which are known to be quite toxic.

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Christmas Island Red Crab

Close-up of rare red crab of the Christmas Island, Australia

Zinni-Online / Getty Images

The Christmas Island red crab is a land crab found on various islands in the Indian Ocean. Over 40 million of these adorable red crabs are thought to have lived on Christmas Island in the 1990s. Unfortunately, the accidental introduction of the yellow crazy ant has devastated populations of the Christmas Island red crab in recent years. The ants take advantage of the Christmas Island red crab's annual migration, during which the crabs travel several miles to mate. Most of the red crab's larvae become snacks for fish, manta rays, or even whale sharks, but every so often a massive cohort will survive to bolster the island populations.

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Atlantic Ghost Crab

Close up image of Atlantic Ghost Crab on beach in Florida
Tim M Lanthier / Getty Images

The wide-eyed Atlantic ghost crab lives on sandy beaches from Brazil up to Rhode Island. This crab's off-white color allows it to blend in with ease among the sand. The Atlantic ghost crab is also impressively fast and perceptive of observers, making it difficult to spot up-close. The best way to see an Atlantic ghost crab is to look for its tiny crab footprints in the sand, which lead to the crab's underground burrow. Or, if you stop by the beach at night, you're likely to see some Atlantic ghost crabs searching for snacks.

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Palawan Purple Crab

The Palawan purple crab was first discovered in 2012 in freshwater near the Palawan Island in the Philippines, making it one of just four species of the genus Insulamon. Not much is known about these beautiful freshwater crabs, but there are concerns that habitat destruction could hurt these recently-discovered cuties.

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Candy-Striped Hermit Crab

A close-up of a candy-striped hermit crab stretching out of it's shell on over sand.
The recently-discovered candy-striped hermit crab.

Rafael Lemaitre and Ellen Muller

This tiny, delicate hermit crab was discovered in 2017 in Bonaire National Marine Park in the Caribbean Ocean when a photographer accidentally caught it on camera. Since then, the adorable candy-striped hermit crab has been spotted living within moray eel dens leading scientists to suspect the candy-striped hermit crab may provide "cleaning" services to moray eels. The crab's striped coloration is also similar to other cleaning animals, like the candy cane cleaner shrimp.

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Black-Eyed Hermit Crab

A Black-eyed Hermit Crab with oversized eyes in Seattle.

Dan Hershman / Flickr /  CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This adorably round black-eyed hermit crab lives in muddy underwater environments from San Diego, California to Alaska. The hermit crab is named after its endearing, over-sized, almond-shaped black eyes. In addition to being cute, the black-eyed hermit crab is also one of the largest hermit crabs in the world. This type of crab often inhabits shells left by massive moon snails. Their shells are often covered with colorful pink anemone-like hydroids, making this critter even cuter.

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Mottled Purse Crab

Mottled purse crab

FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The mottled purse crab is one of just a few species of crab that reproduce through internal fertilization. While most crab species fertilize eggs externally by releasing eggs and sperm simultaneously, the female mottled purse crabs carry developing embryos until the larvae hatch.

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Purple Tree-Climber Crab

A Metopograpsus sp. Purple Climbing Crab in the wild.

budak / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The purple tree-climber crab was discovered in the mangroves of Kerala, India in 2020. Only one other species of tree-climber crab, the arboreal crab, is known to live in the Indian Ocean.

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Fairy Crab

pink squat lobster
Giordano Cipriani / Getty Images

The fairy crab is one of a group of crabs collectively known as squat lobsters. Despite their name, these furry-looking pink crabs and their relatives are actually crabs. They are commonly found living on equally vibrant tropical sponges.

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Blanket Hermit Crab

The blanket hermit crab was first discovered in 1874 by researchers aboard the HMS Challenger. Instead of finding a shell to protect its sensitive body, the adorable blanket hermit crab uses a sea anemone, making this hermit crab look incredibly cozy.

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Porcelain Crab

A dotted porcelain crab on a sea anemone.
A porcelain crabbing on top of a sea anemone.

atese / Getty Images

Despite having a very different appearance, porcelain crabs are closely related to the fairy crab and other squat lobsters. Over 200 species of porcelain crab are known around the world. They are commonly found in shallow tropical water.

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