When most people think of Costa Rica’s wildlife, they think of cheerful monkeys and colorful parrots. However, there is a wealth of lesser-known, yet equally fascinating animals to seek out. One such animal is the Tajaline, or land crab. These colorful creatures come out in droves just before the rainy season, charming spectators with their unique appearance and curious behavior.
Land crabs love warmth and sunshine. They inhabit the Caribbean, the southern Atlantic coast, Gulf Coast, and have been found in Bermuda, Texas, southern Florida, and Central America. They can be seen in many spots of coastal Costa Rica.
Land crabs grow to about 4 inches in length, and can weigh up to just over a pound. The most well-known species located in Costa Rica is called Cardisoma, and is the brightly-colored shell of its juveniles, which features vibrant shades of orange, purple and green.
Land crabs are omnivorous, and eat both plants and small animals, although some species are mainly vegetarian. They live almost completely on land, but never more than five miles from the ocean.
Land crabs mate during full moons in the summertime. The female releases her eggs – all 300,000 to 700,000 of them – into the surf. Most crab larvae never make it to adulthood, but their loss is the ecosystem’s gain – many other creatures depend on them for food.
Land Crabs live tunnels burrowed into the ground. At the start of the rainy season, they burst out of their holes and begin their trek to the sea to lay their eggs. They walk in straight lines, over and past any obstacle, through homes and across roads.
Although watching land crabs heading on their determined journey or burrowing quickly back into their holes is fascinating for visitors and nature-lovers, the local farmers and gardeners see them as pests, as they don’t discriminate where they build their tunnels, and can damage lawns and gardens. They aren’t shy about coming into the house, either. It’s not uncommon to find them indoors. Finally, be careful when driving down the coast highways in Costa Rica- you will find they don’t bother with looking both ways before crossing the road.
Land crabs are shy around humans, and are harmless unless they are provoked. Even then, they only react defensively, and the worst you will get is a painful pinch, warning you not to mess with them again.
Land crabs can be seen in many different national parks in Costa Rica. The best time to see them is during the rainy season, which begins in late April to mid-May and ends in late October to mid-November.