“Look at these crabs – they have a large pink pincer!” exclaimed one of my friends, with whom I was walking a path along the waterside vegetation on the coast. “Could they be Fiddler Crabs?” was the thought that passed through my head when I heard the description. I looked through my binoculars and they were indeed the famous Fiddler Crabs! I had heard of Fiddler Crabs and their colourful pincers and had even seen some films of their spectacular displays. But this was the first time that I had a chance to see this for myself. I was at the Devbagh Beach Resort, Karwar.

1 Uca annulipes

The Porcelain Fiddler Uca annulipes – the smaller and the more common of the two fiddler crabs seen at Devbagh.

While still at a distance, we saw blobs of bright pink moving on the ground. But as we approached closer, they all disappeared – even as we were watching, they retreated quickly into their burrows. Having realised that movement was the cause for them to retreat into their burrows, I decided to stay put near one of the burrows hoping to a get a picture of these beautiful crabs. As time passed, they would slowly emerge from the burrow to forage and the slightest movement would send them packing back into their burrows. This happened for quite some time. So, I had to sit absolutely motionless, so much so that I had cramps in my legs!  All the effort eventually paid off and I managed to get a few images of these pretty crabs. 

I had forgotten all about crabs for some time. Another visit to Devbagh helped renew my interest in crabs. I went around the beach and photographed several other crabs. But, the prize catch was another Fiddler Crab – the Orange Fiddler Crab Uca vocans. I was seeing this species for the first time! It was bigger than the Porcelain Fiddler and had the enlarged pincer coloured yellow instead of pink!

2 Uca vocans

The Orange Fiddler Crab Uca vocans – the enlarged pincer as big as the body itself !  It also lacks a patterned back, that U. annulipes has.

Fiddler Crabs are found in the mangrove areas along the coast. They are known for their asymmetric claws. This also is limited to the males, as only the males have an enlarged pincer which used for displaying. If only you sat quietly and watched them from a distance, you will see the coloured pincers are being constantly waved, wherein the males are trying to communicate to the other crabs around them. While they are doing this, the smaller pincer is busy shoveling food into the mouth.

The next time you are anywhere near the coast, do make it a point to enjoy the show that these little crabs put up!