For a person who has very little knowledge about marine biology, it is easy to be surprised with what you see on the grand variety of walks we take in Galapagos while traveling aboard Yacht La Pinta. During the visits, it’s not all that uncommon to see numerous crabs hanging out along the shores eating seaweed. But this afternoon, I was rather surprised and amazed by what we saw.
We went down at around 4:00 p.m. on the second day of our Western Galapagos Islands itinerary. The tide was high at this point, and we walked along the beach of Fernandina Island (known as Punta Espinoza), with waves bursting over the lava rock and it was there, among the lava rock, that we spotted patches of red.
Upon closer inspection, we realized this color had legs and pincers, and that these were, in fact, Sally Lightfoot crabs (otherwise known by their typical name, zayapas, in the Galapagos Islands). It is only once they’ve matured and grown enough that these crabs attain this intense and vivid shade of red. Younger crabs tend to be of a darker or sometimes even blackish color.
As our group of guests walked by this small grouping of crabs, one of them caught my attention with what it was eating, for his diet was not the classic seaweed found along the rocks. Instead, this crab had a piece of a marine iguana skeleton within its grasp! We all watched, highly amused and curious, as it fed on the remains of the famous marine iguana in Galapagos (a member of our BIG15 group of iconic species). A Sally Lightfoot Crab in Galapagos is not necessarily a rare sight, but they are regarded as scavenger animals that feed on anything that can be used to survive.
For me, it almost appeared as if this particular Sally Lightfoot Crab in Galapagos had won an intense battle with a marine iguana, except that instead of becoming the prey, it had become the predator!