talking points for nature guides
Phylum Arthropoda > Subphylum Crustacea > Class Malacostraca > Order Decapoda > Brachyurans > Family Ocypodidae > Scopimera sp.
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For nature guides: introducing sand bubbler crabs
updated Oct 08

Don't step on the sand bubbler crab!
Sand bubbler crabs make a good 'first station' to sensitise visitors to the fact that every inch of the shore is alive.

It's also a good activity to do if the tide is too high to go out and you need to amuse the visitors on the high shore for a while more.

Observing sand bubblers

  • What are these sand balls? No it's not shit, it's processed sand.

  • Who made the sand balls? "Stay very still and you will see some interesting animals on the sand. They are very small and very sensitive to your footsteps. If you wave your arms around they will think you are a bird and will hide. Pretend you are a tree and they will come out." This will make visitors get used to not stomping around. To be still and look carefully for small things that will only come out when there is no disturbance.

    If it's taking a while for the crabs to come out "While we wait, let's look around us and I'll tell you about some of the special ecosystems we can see around us. Meanwhile DON'T MOVE!"

  • Observing sand balls being made: "Can you see it feeding?" "Did you see one spit out a sand ball?" "Why do you think there are little 'lanes' among the heaps of sand balls?"

The Sand is Alive!

"These tiny crabs are all over the place. You can see some near your feet too! See!!! Every inch of of the shore is alive with creatures. Some of them are small and buried in the sand. Every step we take on will most definitely squash something."


"We have designated a trail on the shore. It is a death zone. Just like any nature park in Singapore. At Sungei Buloh or Bukit Timah, we don't walk anywhere we want to but have to stick to a trail. Otherwise, a larger and larger area will become 'botak' (bald) as footsteps kill off small plants and animals.

"To minimise this death zone, please stay close to me and try to stay in a single file."

If you are not the first group "Follow the trail made by the group in front. Then you don't kill things that they haven't already killed."

Handling tips

Finding sand bubblers: These crabs are found on clean bare sand near the midwater mark. They are only active in daylight.

Do NOT pick up sand bubblers
Visitors will do as we do and not as we say. In any case, if we catch them and put them down far away from their burrow, they will be stressed and may not be able to find protection and then die.

Do NOT dig up sand bubblers either. This is destructive to the habitat, and encourages visitors to dig up everything they want to see. Instead, encourage them to be patient and wait for animals to come out and go about their normal business.
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