Spider Crabs

Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 01:44 PM.

Spider crabs are found throughout the world. The Japanese Spider Crab (Macrocheira kaempferi) is in fact the largest crab in existence with leg spans of 13 feet. That would be an impressive crab to encounter. While divers in the Florida Keys occasionally collect portly spider crabs to eat, the European Spider Crab (Maja squinado) is the spider crab most likely to be found on a menu. The European spider crab is harvested and eaten on the coasts of France and the Isle of Jersey off the French coast, as well as to a lesser degree in Spain and the British Isles. There are commercial fisheries in several European countries for this large spider crab. A quick internet search will turn up recipes for the preparation of the European spider crab.

While many marine organisms are sensitive to pollution or changes in the environment, the portly spider crab is relatively tolerant of pollution and can live in low oxygen environments. Their larvae however are, like most arthropods, susceptible to pesticides washed into the bay. Although few will bother to collect and eat our little portly spider crab, they are a key component of the ecology of St. Joseph Bay and fun to watch as they trudge along the bay bottom.

Tom Baird has been a fisheries biologist, high school and community college teacher (oceanography and microbiology), director of a science and environmental center, teacher of science and principal in Pinellas County as well as an educational consultant. He retired from the Florida Department of Education and he and his wife divide their time between Tallahassee and Cape San Blas.

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