Florida stone crab
|Florida stone crab|
The Florida stone crab, Menippe mercenaria, is a crab found in the western North Atlantic, from Connecticut to Belize, including Texas, the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba and the Bahamas that is widely caught for food.
The stone crab's carapace is 5 to 6.5 inches (130 to 170 mm) wide. They are brownish red with gray spots and a tan underside, and have large and unequally-sized chelae (claws) with black tips. In addition to the usual sexual dimorphism exhibited by crabs, the female Florida stone crabs have a larger carapace than males of a similar age, and males generally have larger chelae than females.
Florida stone crabs prefer to feed on oysters and other small mollusks, polychaete worms, and other crustaceans. They will also occasionally eat seagrass and carrion. Predators that feed on stone crabs include horse conch, grouper, sea turtles, cobia, octopuses, and humans.
Females reach sexual maturity at about two years of age. Their long spawning season lasts all spring and summer, during which time females produce up to a million eggs. The larvae go through six stages in about four weeks before emerging as juvenile crabs. Their lifespan is seven to eight years. The male Florida stone crab must wait for the female to molt her exoskeleton before they can mate. After mating, the male will stay to help protect the female for several hours to several days. The female will spawn four to six times each season.
The Florida stone crab loses its limbs easily to escape from predators or tight spaces, but their limbs will grow back. When a claw is broken such that the diaphragm at the body/claw joint is left intact, the wound will quickly heal itself and very little blood is lost. If, however, the claw is broken in the wrong place, more blood is lost and the crab's chances of survival are much lower. Each time the crab molts, the new claw grows larger.
The crab only molts at night or in night-like conditions due to the crab being extremely vulnerable to predators without the protection of its shell. If the crab is becoming too large for its shell and the sun is up, the crab releases a hormone from a gland located on one of their eye stalks called the x-organ. This hormone prevents the crab from molting from its shell until it finds a safe place to molt or it has become dark enough outside to molt in safety.
The Florida stone crab is usually fished near jetties, oyster reefs or other rocky areas, just as for blue crabs. The bodies of these crabs are relatively small and so 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). To be kept, claws must be 2.75 inches (70 mm) long, measured from the tips of the immovable finger to the first joint. However, mortality rates are 47% for doubly-amputated crabs and 28% for single amputees. Florida stone crabs are legal for harvest from October 15 until May 15.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium has given the Florida stone crab fishery its highest rating of "Best Choice" for maintaining high fishing standards and working hard to keep the stone crab a viable fishery.
|External identifiers for Florida stone crab|
|Encyclopedia of Life||1021778|
|Also found in: GBIF|
- "Stone crab". FishWatch. NOAA. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- Bryan Fluech. "Florida Stone Crab Ecology". University of Florida. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
- NOAA - Summary Table of Stone Crab Life History
- Davis GE, Baughman DS, Chapman JD, MacArthur D and Pierce AC (1978) "Mortality Associated with Declawing Stone Crabs, Menippe mercenaria" US National Park Service, Report T-522.
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - Recreational Stone Crabbing Information
- "Stone crab". Seafood Watch. Monterey Bay Aquarium. Retrieved November 12, 2012.
Further reading 
- Stone Crab Research Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
- Nicolaas Mink (2006). "Selling the storied stone crab. Eating, ecology, and the creation of South Florida culture". Gastronomica 6 (4): 32–43. doi:10.1525/gfc.2006.6.4.32.