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Whatever happened to the sand fiddlers at the beach? I think there used to be more of them.

Gareth McGrath

“They’re there,” said Hap Fatzinger, the curator of the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

Sand fiddlers, also called sand fleas, are mole crabs.

It is possible mole crabs have moved along local beaches after recent dredging projects, Fatzinger said. Dredging can change the texture or makeup of the sediments along a nearby beach. The crabs would generally stay away from areas with rough shell fragments, especially at high tide. He said mole crabs like fine sand because they can extend their antenna up to feed.

“They move up and down the beach up and down the tide lines,” he said.

But Fatzinger said he has seen plenty of the crabs locally, including the Wrightsville Beach and Fort Fisher areas.

“I can’t say their population has declined,” he said. “They are very common on our beaches.”

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8 Responses to “ Whatever happened to the sand fiddlers at the beach? I think there used to be more of them.”

  1. On June 24, 2010 at 5:34 am John Milliken wrote:



    According to what as I learned growing up Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, sand fiddlers and sand fleas are NOT the same! Sand fiddlers have a large claw (males) and the females have two small ones. (See first link above.) The sand flea is rounder, almost egg shaped and is a much gentler creature, unlike the male sand fiddler, which will proudly brandish his claw! (See second link above.)

  2. On June 24, 2010 at 4:19 pm Joyce Farmer wrote:

    Sometimes ghost crabs are called sand fiddlers.

  3. On June 25, 2010 at 9:32 pm Susie wrote:

    The picture you show for the sand fiddler is actually a fiddler crab, not the same thing as a sand fiddler. A sand fiddler/mole crab doesn’t have pinchers. Fiddler crabs live near the sound usually and not in the surf. FYI

  4. On June 26, 2010 at 8:12 am Dean Hewett wrote:

    I go to the beach fairly often with my family. Haven’t seen Sand Fiddlers in years. As a younger person, I saw them scurrying all over the beach each time we went.

  5. On June 26, 2010 at 8:12 pm Scott wrote:

    First poster is correct. In the local vernacular, what we are talking about here is Sand Fleas.If you find with orange underneath, that is their eggs. Let those go so we’ll have more next year. I have to agree with the original person posting the question; I think their population is in decline. I believe dredging kills them. I don’t think they are mobile enough to move so far as to escape the dredging.

  6. On July 3, 2010 at 7:20 am Dqave C wrote:

    I’d agree with the photo evidence, definitions and descriptions presented by the 1st responder to the question.

    Though I know of no direct scientific evidence that explains the untimely disappearance of these two creatures from local beaches. It has been noted by laymen ( Surf Fisherman) that there seems to be some correlation to the decline of the populations of the Sand Fiddler Crabs and SandFleas along area beaches shortly after the inordinate number of coastal artificle beach renourishment projects began, in the same fashion as
    the noted declines in Turtle nestings and the disappearance of fish from the daily bags of these anglers.

    It may be proven true as generations of future anglers and beachcombers question officials in charge of these so called restoration projects, the need to put our states natural resources in expedited unnatural states, that it would have been best, to have left mother nature to her own accords……the destruction brought upon it, is obvious and permanent.

  7. On August 4, 2011 at 1:02 pm Ubiquitousnewt wrote:

    There have been journal articles & studies discussing the negative impact of dredging (“renourishment”) on coquina, which have a similar burrowing habit & habitat to mole crabs. I’m thinking dredging just essentially buries both of them.

  8. On March 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm Clement Matthews wrote:

    In the 1970,s mole crabs where everywhere a Atlantic beach , have not seen them in the last two decades,

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