Florida’s beaches are home to a diverse range of crab species, each with their own unique characteristics and habitats. From the large-clawed Florida Stone Crab to the small and speedy Sand Crab, there are over 15 types of crabs that can be found crawling along the state’s sandy shores.
In addition to these species, Florida’s beaches are also home to the American horseshoe crab, a “living fossil” that has existed nearly unchanged for over 445 million years.
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply looking for a fun beach activity, crab hunting is a fascinating way to explore Florida’s scenic 30A beaches. In this article, we will explore the different types of crabs that can be found on Florida’s beaches, their habitats, and unique characteristics.
11 Types Of Crabs Crawling Florida’s Beaches
Florida Stone Crab
The Florida Stone Crab (Menippe mercenaria) is a species of crab found in the western North Atlantic, from Connecticut to Colombia, including Texas, the Gulf of Mexico, Belize, Mexico, Jamaica, Cuba, The Bahamas, and the East Coast of the United States.
These crabs are usually fished near jetties, oyster reefs, or other rocky areas, just like blue crabs. The bodies of these crabs are relatively small and are rarely eaten, but the claws (chelae), which are large and strong enough to break an oyster’s shell, are considered a delicacy.
Harvesting is accomplished by removing one or both claws from the live animal and returning it to the ocean where it can regrow the lost limb(s).
In the United States, Florida Stone Crabs are legal for harvest from October 15 until May 15. The Florida Stone Crab fishery provides 99% of all stone crab landings in the United States, making it an integral part of the Florida economy.
These crabs are an excellent source of protein, selenium, and magnesium, and are considered a sustainable seafood option.
Blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus) are a common crab species found in Florida’s waters, including the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, as well as in fresh, brackish, and saline ecosystems. Here are some key facts about blue crabs in Florida:
– Blue crabs are commercially harvested with baited traps along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in bays, sounds, channels, and river mouths.
– Recreational fishers age 16 and older are required to complete an online, no-cost recreational blue crab trap registration before using blue crab traps in Florida.
– Legal gear for catching blue crabs in Florida includes blue crab traps (max. 5 per person), dip or landing net, drop net, fold-up trap, hook and line, push scrape, and trotline.
– Crab snares are not considered legal gear for blue crabs in Florida.
– All recreational blue crab traps must have a throat size no larger than 2 inches in height by 6 inches in width, at its narrowest point, constructed of rigid material.
– The maximum trap size is 2 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet or a volume of 8 cubic feet.
– There are regional blue crab trap closures in Florida that last up to 10 days and prohibit recreational and commercial harvest of blue crabs with traps in these areas.
– Blue crabs can be caught year-round in Florida, but the best time to catch them is in the spring and summer months.
– Blue crabs can be found on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, but they are more commonly found in areas with grass beds and pilings of bridges, which provide cover and food.
– Blue crabs are considered a summertime treat for some and are good bait for others.
Overall, blue crabs are an important biological component of Florida’s ecosystems and a popular target for both commercial and recreational fishing.
Fiddler crabs are a type of semiterrestrial marine crab that belong to the family Ocypodidae. There are over 100 species of fiddler crabs, including ghost crabs and mangrove crabs, and they are known for their sexually dimorphic claws.
The males have one enlarged claw that can grow up to 2 inches long, while the females’ claws are equal in size. Fiddler crabs are small, with the largest species being slightly over 2 inches across. They are found along sea beaches, brackish intertidal mud flats, lagoons, swamps, and various other types of brackish or salt-water wetlands.
Fiddler crabs are fun to watch and fairly easy to keep as pets, with few health concerns and docile personalities. They are known for their waving displays, which the males make with their oversized claw during the mating ritual.
Fiddler crabs eat algae, bacteria, and decaying marsh plants, and they feed by sifting through sand or mud for food particles.
Sand crabs, also known as mole crabs or sand fleas, are a type of crustacean that burrows backward just beneath the surface of sandy beaches to hide from predators and look for food. Here are some key facts about sand crabs:
– Sand crabs are found along the temperate western coasts of North and South America, including California, Florida, and Mexico.
– There are several species of sand crabs, including the Pacific sand crab (Emerita analoga), which is found along the Pacific coast of North America.
– Sand crabs are small, typically growing up to 35 mm (1.4 in) long and 25 mm (1.0 in) wide.
– Sand crabs are well adapted to life in the sand, which presents an unstable substrate. Their shape is an elongated dome shape designed for fast burrowing, and their eyes and antennules are elongated so as to project above the surface of the sand.
– Sand crabs feed by sifting through sand or mud for food particles, such as plankton and detritus.
– Sand crabs are an important food source for predatory birds and fish, such as sanderlings, sandpipers, surfperch, and corbina.
– Sand crabs are also eaten by humans in some cultures, such as in Thailand and Malaysia, where they are considered a delicacy.
– Sand crabs are completely harmless to people and can be fun to observe as they move around with the tide.
– Sand crabs can be caught by hand or with a sand crab rake, which is a specialized tool designed to scoop up sand and sift out the crabs.
Overall, sand crabs are an interesting and important part of the coastal ecosystem, and they can be a fun target for beachcombers and amateur scientists alike.
The Golden Crab (Chaceon fenneri) is a species of deep-sea crab that is harvested for food by humans. Here are some key facts about the Golden Crab:
– The Golden Crab is found on the ocean floor at depths of 200 to 1,500 meters (660–4,920 feet) in the tropical west Atlantic, ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to Brazil.
– The carapace of this large crab measures up to 20 cm (7.9 in), making the entire animal similar in size to a dinner plate.
– The Golden Crab’s diet includes benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms like mollusks and worms.
– The Golden Crab is usually cream to tan in color, and its common name comes from the color of its shell.
– The Golden Crab is an important seafood species, and its meat is considered a delicacy.
– Golden Crab House is a Vietnamese-inspired restaurant that serves seafood, including Golden Crab.
– Golden Crab legs can be purchased from seafood markets, such as Captain Jack’s Seafood Locker.
– The Golden Crab is also a food item in the video game Genshin Impact.
– The Golden Crab is the subject of a Greek fairy tale collected as “Prinz Krebs” by Bernhard Schmidt in his Griechische Märchen, Sagen and Volkslieder.
Overall, the Golden Crab is an interesting and important deep-sea crab species that is harvested for food and has cultural significance in some contexts.
Hermit crabs are a type of crustacean that belong to the superfamily Paguroidea. Here are some key facts about hermit crabs:
– Hermit crabs have adapted to occupy empty scavenged mollusk shells to protect their fragile exoskeletons.
– There are over 800 species of hermit crab, most of which possess an asymmetric abdomen concealed by a snug-fitting shell.
– Hermit crabs’ soft (non-calcified) abdominal exoskeleton means they must occupy shelter produced by other organisms or risk being defenseless.
– Almost 800 species carry mobile shelters (most often calcified snail shells); this protective mobility contributes to the diversity and multitude of these crustaceans which are found in almost all marine environments.
– Hermit crabs can live up to 10 years and can grow up to 6 inches long.
– Hermit crabs live on land, not in water, but do require water and moisture in order to replenish shell water.
– Hermit crabs molt (shed their skin) and change shells as they grow.
– The shell is important because they do not have a hard external shell for protection. 3-5 shells per crab should always be available.
– Hermit crabs can be handled, but will pinch if threatened or scared.
– Hermit crabs are extremely sensitive to metal. Be sure their food and water bowls are ceramic or another nonmetal, non-porous material.
– Hermit crabs are popular pets and are readily available in pet stores.
– Hermit crabs mate in seawater. Before mating, the male holds the female with one claw, and then taps or strokes her with the other or pulls her back and forth. Both crabs emerge partially from their shells, placing their stomachs together to mate.
– Hermit crabs are found in sandy- or muddy-bottomed marine waters and occasionally on land and in trees.
Overall, hermit crabs are fascinating creatures that have adapted to occupy empty shells for protection. They are popular pets and can be fun to observe as they molt and change shells.
Spider crabs are a type of marine crab that belong to the superfamily Majoidea. Here are some key facts about spider crabs:
– There are many species of spider crabs, including the Japanese spider crab (Macrocheira kaempferi), which has the largest known leg-span of any arthropod, reaching up to 13 feet (4 meters).
– Spider crabs have long, spindly legs and are typically found in deeper waters off the coast.
– Spider crabs are known for their ability to camouflage themselves by attaching bits of seaweed and other debris to their bodies.
– Spider crabs are omnivores, feeding on a variety of prey including small fish, mollusks, and algae.
– Spider crabs are often referred to as “decorator crabs” because they use their sharp claws to attach bits of seaweed, sponges, and other debris to their shells as a form of camouflage.
– Spider crabs are not typically targeted by commercial fisheries, but they are sometimes caught as bycatch in trawl nets.
– Spider crabs are popular in the aquarium trade and can be kept as pets in large saltwater aquariums.
– The common spider crab (Libinia emarginata) is a species found in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic coast of North America. It is known for its triangular-shaped carapace and long, spindly legs.
– Spider crabs can tolerate and live in polluted waters and low-oxygen environments.
Overall, spider crabs are fascinating creatures that are known for their unique appearance and ability to camouflage themselves. While they are not typically targeted by commercial fisheries, they are sometimes caught as bycatch and are popular in the aquarium trade.
Harris Mud Crab
The Harris Mud Crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii) is a small omnivorous crab native to Atlantic coasts of the Americas, from New Brunswick to Veracruz. Here are some key facts about the Harris Mud Crab:
– The Harris Mud Crab is usually found in brackish water, but can also be found in freshwater.
– The crab likes to live on stones and in oyster beds, and is most abundant in estuarine habitats, usually at reduced salinities, with some form of shelter such as oyster reefs, vegetation, or logs.
– The Harris Mud Crab can reach a maximum size of 20 millimeters (0.8 in) and has an olive-green-brownish color, sometimes with dark spots on its carapace.
– The Harris Mud Crab is also known as the Zuiderzee crab, dwarf crab, estuarine mud crab, white-fingered mud crab, and white-tipped mud crab.
– The Harris Mud Crab is not typically targeted by commercial fisheries, but it is sometimes caught as bycatch in trawl nets.
– The Harris Mud Crab is found in eutrophic waters in its native habitat in the Gulf of Mexico, and in mesotrophic waters in its invaded range in the Baltic Sea.
– The Harris Mud Crab is an important food source for many predators, including fish, birds, and other crabs.
Overall, the Harris Mud Crab is an interesting and important species that is found in estuarine habitats along the Atlantic coasts of the Americas.
Purple Marsh Crab
The Purple Marsh Crab (Sesarma reticulatum), also known as the marsh crab, is a species of crab native to the salt marshes of the eastern United States. Here are some key facts about the Purple Marsh Crab:
– The range of the Purple Marsh Crab extends from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to Volusia County, Florida.
– The Purple Marsh Crab is a small crab species, with a carapace that measures up to 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) wide.
– The Purple Marsh Crab is usually purple or brown in color, and has a square-shaped carapace.
– The Purple Marsh Crab is an omnivore, feeding on a variety of prey including wetland plants, small invertebrates, and detritus.
– The Purple Marsh Crab is an important food source for many predators, including blue crabs and birds.
– The Purple Marsh Crab is sometimes considered a pest, as it can damage marsh vegetation and contribute to marsh erosion.
– The Purple Marsh Crab is an air-breather and forages at night, spending the day hiding in waterlogged burrows.
– The Purple Marsh Crab is an interesting species that is native to the salt marshes of the eastern United States and plays an important role in the ecosystem.
Red Swamp Crab
The Red Swamp Crab (Procambarus clarkii) is a species of freshwater crayfish native to the Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico drainages from Florida, Mexico, and New Mexico north to Ohio and Illinois. Here are some key facts about the Red Swamp Crab:
– The Red Swamp Crab is also known as the Louisiana crawfish, mudbug, or simply crayfish.
– The Red Swamp Crab is primarily found in marshes, swamps, and slow-flowing rivers, and is tolerant of hypoxic conditions, poor water quality, and salinities up to 20 PSU.
– The Red Swamp Crab is an omnivore, consuming many food sources such as plants, animals, organic material, sediment, etc.
– The Red Swamp Crab is an important food source for many predators, including humans, birds, and other aquatic animals.
– The Red Swamp Crab is commonly imported and sold for human consumption, and to schools by biological supply houses, leading to the potential for illegal release into the wild.
– The Red Swamp Crab is considered an invasive species in many areas outside of its native range, including Europe, Asia, and Africa.
– The Red Swamp Crab is known to cause damage to levees, dams, and water control devices due to its burrowing activity.
– The Red Swamp Crab is prohibited in some states, including Wisconsin and Minnesota, due to its potential to cause ecological harm.
Overall, the Red Swamp Crab is an interesting and important species that is native to the Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico drainages, but has become an invasive species in many areas outside of its native range.
The Jonah Crab (Cancer borealis) is a marine brachyuran crab that inhabits waters along the east coast of North America from Newfoundland to Florida. Here are some key facts about the Jonah Crab:
– Jonah crabs possess a rounded, rough-edged carapace with small light spots, and robust claws with dark brown-black tips.
– The maximum reported carapace width for males is 222 mm, while females rarely exceed 150 mm.
– Jonah crabs are the closest relative to the European brown crab in the Western Atlantic.
– Jonah crabs have been reported at depths of up to 750 m, and their habitat preferences range from rocky substrate in Rhode Island and the Gulf of Maine to silt and clay substrate on the continental slope.
– It is widely accepted that Jonah crabs move offshore in the fall and winter, and females have been documented moving inshore in late spring and summer.
– Jonah crabs are not managed federally in the United States, but instead are managed by individual states with interstate coordination by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.
– Jonah crab has a sweet taste, though it is not as meaty as the West Coast Dungeness crab. The claws can be served steamed and served chilled over ice for an appetizer or the meat used for crab cakes, among many other preparations.
– Jonah crab is often caught as bycatch in large-scale lobster fisheries, and it’s unknown if the stock is being harvested at a sustainable level.
– Jonah crab is also known as the white legger and belongs to the genus of cancer (meaning “crab” in Latin).
Overall, the Jonah Crab is an interesting and important species that is found in waters along the east coast of North America and is often caught as bycatch in large-scale lobster fisheries.
1. What are the different types of crabs that can be found on Florida’s beaches?
There are over 15 types of crabs that can be found on Florida’s beaches, including the Florida Stone Crab, Blue Land Crab, Jonah Crab, Sand Fiddler Crab, Ghost Crab, and more.
2. Are these crabs dangerous to humans?
Most of the crabs found on Florida’s beaches are not dangerous to humans. However, some species, such as the Blue Land Crab, have sharp claws and can pinch if provoked.
3. Can I catch and eat these crabs?
Some of the crabs found on Florida’s beaches, such as the Florida Stone Crab, are harvested for food. However, it is important to follow local regulations and only harvest crabs that are legal to catch.
4. Are these crabs important to the ecosystem?
Yes, these crabs play important roles in the ecosystem as both predators and prey. They help to maintain the balance of the food chain and contribute to the overall health of the ecosystem.
5. Can I keep these crabs as pets?
Some of the crabs found on Florida’s beaches, such as the Hermit Crab, can be kept as pets. However, it is important to provide them with the proper habitat and care.
6. Are these crabs affected by climate change?
Climate change can have an impact on the habitats and populations of these crabs, as well as the overall health of the ecosystem. It is important to take steps to reduce our impact on the environment and protect these species for future generations.
7. Are these crabs invasive species?
Some of the crabs found on Florida’s beaches, such as the Red Swamp Crab, are invasive species that can have negative impacts on the ecosystem. It is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with these species and take steps to prevent their spread.