Tuesday 21 May
Edible crab (Cancer pagurus)
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Edible crab fact file
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Edible crab description
The common and familiar edible crab is easily identified by its large black-tipped toothed pincers and characteristic ‘pie-crust’ edging (3). It is the largest crab in Britain, and the heavy oval-shaped body is reddish-brown in colour (4). Although most individuals measure around 15 cm in width (3), a specimen in the Natural History Museum in Paris has a width of 28.5 cm (5).
- Carapace width: 20 cm (2)
Edible crab biology
Females reach maturity at carapace widths of 12.7 cm, whereas in males the figure is closer to 11 cm (2). Breeding takes place in winter. For a period before mating, the male holds onto a female until she moults. After moulting she is receptive to mating and copulation takes place. The female digs a pit in the sediment which she retreats into to lays the eggs. She then carries the fertilised eggs for seven to eight months before they hatch in spring or summer. Large female can carry a staggering 20 million eggs at any one time. After hatching, the larvae are planktonic for up to 30 days. Edible crabs are known to live up to 20 years of age (2).Top
Edible crab rangeTop
Edible crab habitat
Found in pools and gullies on course, rocky substrata and on muddy sand offshore to depths of 100 m (3). The largest specimens tend to occur offshore (2), whereas small individuals tend to occur beneath boulders (4).Top
Edible crab status
Not threatened (2).Top
Edible crab threats
This species is not threatened.Top
Edible crab conservation
Conservation action is not required for this species. It is illegal to land females that are carrying eggs (4).Top
Find out more
Wilson, E. (1999) Cancer pagurus. Edible crab. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom:
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- Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- Aquatic organisms that drift with water movements; may be either phytoplankton (plants), or zooplankton (animals).
- National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (January, 2004)
- Fish, J.D. and Fish, S. (1989) A student’s guide to the seashore. Unwin Hyman Ltd, London.
- Wilson, E. (1999) Cancer pagurus. Edible crab. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. (November, 2003)
- Marine Life Information Network Learning Zone (January, 2004)
- Marine Life Study Society (January, 2004)
- Gibson, R., Hextall, B. and Rogers, A. (2001) Photographic guide to the sea and shore life of Britain and north-west Europe. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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