Blue Crab

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Blue Crab

Callinectes sapidus

Range/Geographical Distribution: Along the coast from Massachusetts to Uruguay.

Habitat: Nearshore, including beaches, marshes, bays, and estuaries.

Description: A large swimming crab with a gray/green or gray/blue carapace and large, blue claws, which are tipped with red in the female.  Underside is light tan/blue.

Size: Can reach nine inches in carapace (shell) width.

Food: Bivalves, crustaceans, fish, worms, plants, detritus, and dead fish and plants.

Breeding: Mate in brackish water from February to November. Male holds onto a female until her final molt, after which they mate.  Two to nine months later the female migrates offshore to release her eggs.  One female may carry as many as eight million eggs. The eggs hatch into planktonic larva and migrate back nearshore into estuaries.  Female crabs store sperm and will use it to fertilize multiple spawnings.

Predators: Fish, sharks, rays, and sea turtles.

Conservation Status: No legal status but loss of habitat combined with the blue crab’s popularity as a food for humans may lead to reduced populations.

Interesting Facts: The blue crab’s scientific name, Callinectes sapidus, translates to “savory beautiful swimmer.” Blue crabs almost always walk sideways, clearing a path with their sharp lateral spines, but when they swim they use their paddle-like rear legs for propulsion. Chesapeake Bay, North Carolina, and Louisiana support the largest blue crab fisheries.

On the Coast: Blue crabs are common in Georgia’s coastal waters and brightly-colored, floating crab pot buoys can be seen along most waterways.

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