Things Are Not Always As They Appear

A western gull holds a dead red rock crab in its beak on Cobble Beach at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport, Oregon

It might look like this western gull has just caught a red rock crab but the crab was long dead. No flesh yet remained, yet the shell and legs were still held together by a thin material. Usually the dead crabs are scattered in pieces around the beach so I was surprised to see the crab of a piece, and perhaps the gull was too, as it quickly dropped it when it realized there was nothing left to eat.

Revenge of the Crabs

The shell of a red rock crab floats in a tidepool

I came across this red rock crab floundering in a tide pool, struggling to emerge from under the rocks and climb onto the beach but the incoming tide washing it back down. Clearly a zombie crab, but still I took pity on it and decided to help it, despite its gaping maw and triangular teeth.

“Need some help there little one?”

“Yes! About time! How long were you going to watch me struggle?”

“Promise you won’t eat my brains?”

“Just help me up!”

“I’m not going to help you if you’re going to eat my brains. And you don’t have to be so, ah, …”

“What? I don’t have to be so what?”


“Crabby? Were you going to say crabby?”

“No. Well, maybe. Yes.”

“For millions and millions of years my kind has ruled the border between land and sea, and from that border down to the depths of the deepest oceans. And in our new more fearsome form so too will we now rule the land!”

“Oh no!”

“Now you show me the respect I deserve!”

“No, I meant ‘oh no’ as in ‘oh no, the gulls have spotted you’.”

“What? Quick! Get me out of here! Help! Help!”

“Promise you won’t eat my brains!”

“We do as we must!”

“Well then, it was nice meeting you, but I’m going to keep walking down the beach. Goodbye, and good luck.”

“Help me! Help me! Don’t walk away! Maybe I’ll only nibble!”

If it said anything more I couldn’t hear it above the cries of the gulls as they closed in. If you weren’t eaten by a zombie today, say a little thank you to the gulls, they are our defenders.

I did stop to photograph this dead crab because its scattered parts reminded me of a monster climbing from under the earth, but we’re looking at the back of the crab, not its front. The large hole is where its abdomen would have been, and the teeth are bits of soft flesh left behind by scavengers (they didn’t leave much). While only one leg was still attached with the others discarded nearby, one was close enough, and angled well enough, that it seemed as though it was an extremely long arm emerging from the stones of the beach. The eyes are just a depression on the shell but if I stood at the right angle they looked like eye sockets.