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The Seashore


Edible Crab (Cancer pagurus)

The Edible Crab

The Edible Crab has a "pie crust" edge to the carapace (no pun intended!) and is a good feature to identify the crab. On the shore it is only around 5 - 10 cm long. Off shore they grow to well over 28 cm across the carapace. When disturbed it tends to curl the legs under the body and into a ball. This is a protective measure.

Like most crabs the Edible Crab is a carnivore and scavenger. Molluscs are especially predated upon. It is very mobile and can avoid some of the environmental stresses of low tides by sheltering under large algae and stones. They have separate sexes. They mate after she has shed the exoskeleton and it is known that he can help her release the old skeleton. After mating the female can carry up to two million eggs for months before they eventually hatch into a larval stage called a zooea. This then lives in the plankton as a carnivore. After going through a series of moults (ecdysis) and different stages, the larva settles out of the plankton on to the shore, usually after 30 days. The chances of individual survival in the plankton is minimal and this accounts for the large number of eggs produced. When the larvae settle as young crabs on the seashore they feed and mature there. As they age so they move down into deeper water so that by the time they become an adult they will be off-shore. This helps to avoid competition for food, with the young crabs and adults on different parts of the seashore.

They take between 3 and 5 years to reach full maturity. The Edible Crab is migratory, living and spawning off shore.

This crab is found on the middle and lower shores of rocky seashores where it can become common. Mainly sheltered or semi-exposed shores. Widespread along the European coastline including the north Atlantic and Mediterranean.


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