Who knew crabs could be so cool? We have three colorful examples that are worth a look now in our crab exhibit, including the Puget Sound king crab, elbow crab and umbrella crab.

Puget Sound king crabs (Lopholithodes mandtii) are particularly spectacular. Bright orange when juveniles, they develop red and purple patches as they age, according to Aquarist Kelsey Barker. They’re found as far south as Monterey, but we don’t see them here often. (The one on display was collected in Vancouver.) All the crabs you see here are carnivores, and the Puget Sound king crab is particularly fond of sea urchins on exhibit. We think the extra calcium helps in the molting process. They often eat urchins, sea stars and even anemones in the wild.

Elbow crabs (Heterocrypta occidental) often bury themselves in the sand, especially during the day, so you may need to look carefully. The length of their claws gives them great leverage to pry barnacles off rocks. If they do capture something, they often hold it between the propodus and carpus (different “joints” on the limbs). They’re common in Monterey Bay, and these were collected at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Umbrella crabs (Cryptolithodes sitchensis) can be bright red to orange or white, and are can be found locally. This species, and the Puget Sound king crab, like the rocky outcroppings. When they don’t move, they can be mistaken for a clam shell, or even a patch of coralline algae. Light filters out color the farther you are away from something underwater, so the reds and oranges often fade into the background. 

(Photos Randy Wilder)

Notes

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    WHO KNEW?!
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    Eep! Elbow crabs are my favorites. :3
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About me

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, perched on the edge of a world-famous coastline, is your window to the wonders of the ocean. It’s located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey and is open daily except Christmas Day.

For more information about our animals and exhibits, and to view our live web cams, please visit www.montereybayaquarium.org.

Hours of operation vary by season. Daily schedules and tickets are available on our website or by calling
(831) 648-4800.