Wildlife

Red Drum
Sciaenops ocellatus

Perhaps the most popular game fish, the Red Drum, is both fun to catch and excellent to eat.  Its long body is distinguished by one or more large black dots just before the tail fin. It varies widely in size from one pound to over fifty pounds.  The large “bull” redfish, typically caught in fall season, is a real challenge to reel in! You can find Red Drum in brackish and saltwater ponds, rivers, creeks, and even the ocean.
 

Flounder
Platichthys stellatus

Flounder, a bottom dweller in Kiawah's ocean and rivers, is known for having two eyes on one side of its extremely flat, oval shaped body.  Its dark coloring helps him hide on the ocean floor where he lives.  Both eyes are available to watch for unsuspecting fish swimming by.  Most flounder weigh less than five pounds but can exceed 15 pounds.  Flounder is very popular in local restaurants.
 

Blue Crab
Callinectes sapidus

The blue crab, the king of common edible coastal crabs, has a green body and blue legs and claws. His eyes are on the ends of movable stalks allowing for 360-degree vision. The blue crab has five pairs of legs, including three for walking, one for swimming, and one that is actually a pincer. Stand on the edge of the shore, peer down into the water, and look for blue crabs walking along the ocean floor. The gender of a blue crab can be determined by looking at it's underside. Males have a rocket ship pattern while females have an upside down U-shaped design. 

Female blue crabs live in brackish water but travel closer to the saltier ocean to release their eggs in open water.  Although they lay between two and eight million eggs, only one or two typically survive to adulthood. Blue crabs scavenge on dead animals and also eat small fish, shrimp, and other crabs, and are an important food source for birds and numerous species of fish.  Humans find them pretty tasty too!
 

Horseshoe Crab
Limulus polyphemus

Horseshoe crabs are about 18 inches-long and resemble an old metal helmet with a tail. They have been around for more than 450 million years and are considered living fossils.  Although they have a menacing appearance, they are actually harmless. Their legs are found under its shell and are used to chew the crab’s food.  The food is passed backward to its mouth, located between the last three pairs of legs.  As a result, it is unable to eat unless it is walking.  The horseshoe crab lives in the surf and in water up to 75 feet deep, and crawls on shore to spawn.  Female horseshoe crabs may nest ten times each season, laying up to 20,000 eggs. 

Unlike humans who have red iron-rich blood, a horseshoe crab’s blood contains copper and turns blue when exposed to air. Scientists use horseshoe crab blood for testing medical equipment to make sure that it is completely sterilized.  The blood is also used extensively in detecting serious bacterial infections such as meningitis. This makes horseshoe crab blood quite valuable, at about $60,000 a gallon.

Photo by Mickey Ball
 

Ghost Crab
Ocypode quadrata

On the upper part of the beach look for ghost crabs, about 2 to 3 inches tall, by finding holes in the sand marking the entrance to their burrows. Ghost crab burrows can reach four feet deep.  If you see one dash into its hole, be patient.  It will likely reappear and go about its business of clearing sand out of its burrow and searching for food including beach fleas, small crabs, clams, and sea turtle eggs.  

Its spooky translucent coloring, eyes that appear to be floating atop of its head, and its startling movements make this animal appear ghostly. He can move forward, backward, and sideways, and can run up to 10 miles per hour!  The ghost crab is very fast and can put a start into any unsuspecting beach walker, especially after dark! Shore birds and raccoons prey on ghost crabs.

Photo by Pamela Cohen
 

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