The Loh Down On Science

Crab Shuffle

Bustin' a move, crab style.

Got crabs? We do!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

And now that we have your attention, meet that life of the party called the GHOST crab.

Biologist David Clayton, from Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, videotaped male ghost crabs who live in sandy seaside burrows near Muscat City. He also recorded every associated sound and vibration.

Usually, the crabs relaxed outside their burrows--until another crab showed up. Then, they'd bust a move, crustacean style.

First, the crabs drummed their claws against the sand to get the groove on, then they moved their pincers up and down while rapidly stepping in place. They'd shuffle quickly to one side. Then the other. Do-Si-Do around the stranger. Then finish with a few foot stomps.

The dance-offs lasted up to a full minute.

Each movement, Clayton found, produced a different sound and vibration that likely communicates SOMETHING to the other crab. However, whether dancers are sending good or bad vibes remains unknown. Could be courtin'. Could be crabby, just picking a fight.

Whatever it is, it could make for a great National Geographic film about complex crab relationships called "Sideways."


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