A dog walker was shocked when she discovered an odd-looking crab with a spider-shaped ‘beak’ and claws on a beach in Anglesey.
When she picked it up from the waves, the woman saw what looked like a human face staring at her from the back of the crustacean.
Subsequent research revealed that these were the telltale signs of the little seen masked crab.
The dog walker, who asked not to be named, came across the mysterious creature during a late afternoon walk alongside Traeth Benllech.
The tide was out and she saw something sticking out of the sand at the surf line.
Retrieving it, she pulled out a crab unlike anything she had seen before.
âHe had a sharp antenna and a human face on his shell,â she said.
âI assumed he was alive because he was lodged in the sand as if he was burrowing.
“I only realized what it was after I got home and researched.”
Masked crabs are rarely seen as they spend most of their time hidden in the sand.
Only their tube-shaped antennae protrude from the sand, allowing them to draw seawater and breathe.
In doing so, the antennae act a bit like a snorkel.
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Also known as the helmet or sand crab, the reddish-brown masked crab gets its common name from the markings on the back of its shell, which appear to resemble a human face.
Although they are relatively small, measuring only 8-10cm in length, males have oversized claws that are much longer than their bodies.
The claws of females are much shorter.
Some commercial fishermen have never seen a masked crab despite living at sea.
However, they are native to the British Isles and Anglesey is a good place to find them, as the island’s cool and clean waters are home to abundant marine life.
Red Wharf Bay is a UK hotspot for masked crabs.
Most have been discovered during underwater surveys, but walkers sometimes encounter them on the area’s beaches, which are usually stranded.
Considering their rarity, dog walker Benllech wished she hadn’t returned her find to the surf – she would have liked to donate it to an aquarium.
“From now on I take a bucket when I visit the beach!” she said.
“Maybe I’ll spot another.”
“Or maybe the one I saw was like finding a unicorn.”
Have you seen one of these crabs? Or have you made any other strange discoveries on the beach? Share your stories in the comments section below.