Background – Species Info – AL Blue Crab

Species Information

.Blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) has a wide range in the Northern hemisphere. They are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico, as far north as Nova Scotia and as far south as Argentina, including Bermuda and the Antilles (Sutton and Wagner 2007). Blue crab is considered an “r-selected species, ” displaying high fecundity, rapid growth, early age-at-maturation, short life spans, and high natural mortality rates. These characteristics make blue crab highly resilient and allow for sus­tained high exploitation rates, and rapid recovery in the event of overfishing (Guillory, Perry and Vanderkooy 2001). The maximum life span for a blue crab is six years (West et al. 2011), but the average is 1-3 years (Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission). Blue crabs are sexually dimorphic; females have red claws and a broad abdominal apron, while males have blue claws and a narrow abdominal apron. Determining the exact age of crabs can be difficult; however, scientific evidence indicates that blue crabs in the Gulf of Mexico reach sexual maturity within ten to 12 months. Mating and spawning occurs March through November. Females mate once in their lives, but can store sperm for future spawning, and they may spawn several times in a season. The female carries as many as 3 million eggs per brood under the abdomen for about two weeks until they hatch.

Blue crabs feed on a wide variety of organisms. While the exact diet of larval blue crabs is unknown, culture of blue crabs indicate that during free-swimming pelagic larvae stage, they are filter feeders that primarily consume zooplankton (Millikin and Williams 1984). Juvenile and adults are non-discriminating predators and scavengers, feeding on fish, blue crabs, other crab species, clams, oysters, shrimp, mussels, snails, worms, insects, aquatic plants, and detritus (Laughlin 1982). Blue crabs are also vital prey for many species of fish, reptiles, and mammals. Cannibalism is also common.


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