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JWM: Hungry ghost crabs may haunt plover nests

Cara J

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Imperiled piping plover (Charadrius melodus) populations have been gradually growing since the species gained federal protection over three decades ago, but in North Carolina, they’re rearing the fewest fledglings. Researchers recently identified some unexpected probable culprits — ghost crabs (Ocypode quadrata) devouring the plovers’ eggs after slipping through predator exclosures designed to secure their nests against more obvious, bigger threats. These findings suggest that implementing a way to keep the crustaceans out could improve plover productivity. “Ghost crabs can be a main predator when all other predators are excluded, which might not have received much attention before,” said Eunbi Kwon, first author on the study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management. Piping plovers nest along the Atlantic coast from New Brunswick to North Carolina, where they fell to 20 breeding pairs in 2004 due to predation, habitat loss and degradation stemming from development and sea-level rise, severe storms and recreational disturbance. Scientists estimated 1,765 total breeding pairs in 2016 after conservation programs started reversing the national decline, but the North Carolina plovers have been lagging in the number of offspring they fledge. A research scientist with the Virginia Tech Shorebird Program, Kwon and her colleagues noticed something was eating [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/jwm-hungry-ghost-crabs-may-haunt-plover-nests/

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