A seasonal menace to motorists and a tasty target for crabbers, Cayman’s land crabs are a familiar sight throughout the island.
However, little data exists on the population size and habits of the species.
A new study aims to change that.
Researchers will collect basic biological data, estimate white and black land crab population sizes and determine peak breeding seasons for the species.
Jane Haakonsson of the Department of Environment’s Terrestrial Resources Unit said the project would help determine if the populations are sustainable.
“Land crabs are economically significant as a local food source. Harvesting pressure and rates of roadkill are unknown, but is suspected to be increasing with the island’s growing human population and vehicular traffic,” Ms. Haakonsson wrote in an outline of the study for the Department of Environment’s Flicker magazine.
She told the Cayman Compass the study would help determine whether any harvesting limits need to be considered in a management plan for the species. It will also look at the impact of development and habitat loss on the species.
She said the study would focus on the area along the Queen’s Highway east of North Side and Barkers National Park in West Bay, where crabs are most commonly seen.
“It is basically a population assessment and a study of critical reproductive time frames and migratory routes,” she said.
Both species, black and white land crabs, are commonly seen crossing roads as they migrate from their inland habitats to the ocean between May and August.
Ms. Haakonsson said the study would be valuable in managing the species and determining any conservation measures that might be necessary.
Kinsey Tedford, a graduate student of Dr. David Bass, the Department of Environment’s visiting invertebrate specialist, will lead the study with assistance from the DoE.
Initial research took place in May, with the main study planned for summer 2016.
The Flicker article notes: “This study also has the potential to benefit society by serving as a model for other locations concerned with protecting land crabs or other species facing similar situations. Solutions provided in this research are relevant because habitat destruction, road construction for motorized vehicles, and human consumption of wildlife are increasing problems.”