Invasion of the jellyfish and Halloween crabs

Panamanian land crab commonly called the Halloween crab

This post is also available in: Spanish

On-the-Water by Ilene Little

Visitors to the Perlas Islands experience a marine ecosystem which is a sanctuary for many species. A visit to Las Perlas is a chance to witness one or more of nature’s miracles. So what can you expect during your visit this month to the islands? Chances of seeing dolphins are good, and you may even catch sight of a whale if you are lucky. It is also the month for seeing jellyfish and crabs.

Panamanian land crab commonly called the Halloween crab

Panamanian land crab commonly called the Halloween crab.

Gecarcinus quadratus, known as the Panamanian Land Crab is most commonly known as the Halloween Crab for its coloring or as the Moon Crab for its migratory association with the moon phases. The crabs are vibrantly colored with purple pincers, black hard-shells and almost iridescent reddish orange legs; hence the Halloween moniker. They aren’t going to hurt you, but the noise of thousands of crabs scurrying about in the night can be unnerving.

John Power, a resident of Saboga, reported seeing thousands of crabs. “The full moon on ‘Good Friday’ seemed to be the start of the crab invasion,” he said. This nocturnal crab is known for burrowing – in tunnels that sometimes reach 1.5 metres (4.9 ft.) in length where they bury themselves in the daytime.

The crab lives in the forest at least some of its adult life, but needs to return to the ocean to breed. In the morning, after the crabs have begun their migration to the shore, the flat expanse of sand on the beach will have erupted into hundreds of small hillocks.

First aid for a jellyfish sting

If you do get stung by a Medusa jellyfish:

·Do not rinse in fresh water. Treat the area before you attempt to scrape away any tentacles.

·To treat, rinse the affected area with vinegar for about 30 seconds, or apply a paste of baking soda and seawater. Rinse again with salt water. ·After treatment, scrape away any tentacles. Wear gloves and use a razor or edge of a sharp shell.

·Severe pain, high swelling, breathing problems, or difficulty swallowing are major symptoms that occur in those who suffer from severe allergic reactions to jellyfish stings. If this is the case, see a doctor immediately.

During a crab hatch the beach and the surf will be dotted with orange translucent crab eggs the size of ping-pong balls. These are harmless. Simply step around or swim right through them.

Jellyfish are a different matter. The flotillas of jellyfish known as Medusa appear almost ghostly as they drift with the current. They are white, semi-translucent and about the shape and size of a Frisbee, and they can sting you. If swimming, either swat them out of your way without touching them with your skin or avoid them.


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