26 September 2008

Heavy and strong: the red rock crab and relatives

When I was young I played for years and years with my toy knights. To be honest, up to my tenth birthday I wanted to be a knight. Maybe that’s the reason I love crabs: both are heavily armoured and crabs walk a bit clumsy like knights did in their armour of up to 40 kg!
This is a ‘heavy’ crab: the red rock crab, Cancer productus.

I found quite a few of these crabs in shallow water. They were ‘hiding’ under seaweeds. Because of their red colour they are easy prey for divers and I have seen crabs without claws. Taken because the claws are excellent food. And however I do like to eat crab, it makes me sick to see them amputated this way. At least leave one claw, so they are able to gather food and to regenerate!

The red rock crab can grow as large as 20 cm. It is a ‘nephew’ of our (European) edible crab, Cancer pagurus (NL: Noordzeekrab). They are quicker and more aggressive than the edible crab. So you better beware, because their pincers are big and very powerful.

The European 'nephew' edible crab, Cancer pagurus (NL: Noordzeekrab). I saved this specimen years ago. He got stuck in a net, lost by a trawler and washed on the shore. Out of gratitude he gave me some time to take a few portraits. Doesn't he look cute?

This one is waiting for the female crab (you can see her lying under him) to shed her armour. When she has crept out of her old armour her new armour is soft and the male can penetrate her, so they are able to reproduce.

These red rock crabs are in the process of ‘making love’. Apart from protecting her against other animals, I have never seen any kind of courtship between crabs. This reminds me of an awfully bad King Arthur movie, where Arthur in armour was making love to his queen. Killing in a missionary position!

Another species of the Cancridae I found: the graceful crab (Cancer gracilis). This is a juvenile specimen of 45 mm wide.