Sally Lightfoot crabs are gorgeous creatures with some of the most vivid colour in the animal world. Intense red patches with black, white, and gold accents make this crab a welcome sight for anyone who appreciates the beauty of nature. But just as amazing as their appearance is the very important function that they carry out as they patrol the beaches and rocky shores looking for decaying plant and animal materials. They clean the beaches and keep the algae growth in balance. Without them, most beaches would be littered with rotting material, accompanied by very unpleasant odours. The algae that they feed upon would make the shoreline a difficult place to walk, without the crabs continually pruning and consuming it. Sally Lighfoots live in the Galapagos Islands and they enjoy a symbiotic relationship with another animal species that lives exclusively in the Galapagos. The marine iguana is a unique lizard that has adapted to a world that lacks vegetation during the dry season. They dive for algae beneath the waves. The Sally Lighfoot crab eats the dead skin and the skin parasites off the lizards, getting a free meal in the process. The legs of the crab have hooks instead of feet, allowing them to clutch the lava rock tightly. This prevents them from being washed away, even in powerful surf. The crabs begin life as black creatures with red spots. Each time they molt, a new shell grows with larger red spots until the crab is completely coloured. As they mature, they become faster and more agile, increasing their ability to avoid predators. This makes their lack of camouflage less of a problem. Anyone who has taken a trip to the Galapagos Islands will undoubtedly have seen these beautiful crabs along almost every shore. They truly are nature’s janitors!
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