King crab

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The term king crab is also sometimes used for the horseshoe crab Limulus.

King crabs
Spiny king crab md.jpg
Paralithodes californiensis
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Infraorder: Anomura
Superfamily: Paguroidea
Family: Lithodidae
Samouelle, 1819
Genera [1]


King crabs, also called stone crabs, are a family of crab-like decapod crustaceans chiefly found in cold seas. Their large size means that many species are widely caught and sold as food.

King crabs are generally believed to be derived from hermit crab ancestors, which may explain the asymmetry still found in the adult forms. Although some doubt still exists about this theory, king crabs are the most widely quoted example of carcinisation among the Decapoda. The evidence for this explanation comes from the asymmetry of the king crab's abdomen, which is thought to reflect the asymmetry of hermit crabs, which must fit into a spiral shell.

Paralithodes camtschaticus

A woman holding a red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)

The red king crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus, is the most coveted commercially sold king crab and is the most expensive per unit weight. It is most commonly caught in Bristol Bay and Norton Sound, Alaska, and is particularly difficult to catch, but is nonetheless the most preferred crab for consumption and has been said to be tastier than lobster [2]. Red king crab gets its name from the colour it turns when it is cooked rather than that of its actual colour while still alive, which tends to be more burgundy.

Recently, an overpopulation of red king crabs in the Barents Sea is causing concern about the local biosystems. It was introduced artificially in the Murmansk Fjord in Russia during the 1960s to provide new catch for the Soviet fishermen. Since its introduction it has spread west along the Norwegian coast and also towards the island group of Svalbard [3][4]. Environmentalists and some local fishermen fear the crab because it eats everything it comes across and is spreading very rapidly (despite this threat, some fishing quotas on the crab are still in place). Other fishermen see the king crab as a blessing, as it is a high priced delicacy in some countries [5].

Paralithodes rathbuni

Paralithodes platypus

The blue king crab, Paralithodes platypus, is caught off St. Matthew Island and the Pribilof Islands, Alaska, and is the largest of all the king crabs. The blue king crab is often sold as the coveted red king crab because when it is cooked it resembles and tastes similar to red king crab.

Lithodes aequispinus

The golden king crab, Lithodes aequispinus, is caught in the Aleutian Chain off the coast of Alaska. The golden king crab is significantly smaller than the red and blue crab types, but tastes similar to the red and blue king crabs although actually sweeter. They are, however, considerably cheaper due to their appearance and size. Significant populations occur in pockets in the waters off the Pribilof and Shumagin Islands,Shelikof Strait,Prince William Sound and at least as far south as lower Chatham Strait in Southeast where a regular commercial fishery occurs annually.It should be noted they occur in deeper water than the red king crab,often in depths exceeding 300 ftms.

Lithodes couesi

The scarlet king crab, Lithodes couesi, is not often fished for since it is not sold commercially. This is due to the small size and lack of population to allow a commercial harvest.

See also


  1. ^ McLaughlin, P. A. (2003). "Illustrated keys to families and genera of the superfamily Paguroidea (Crustacea: Decapoda: Anomura), with diagnoses of genera of Paguridae" (PDF). Memoirs of Museum Victoria. 60 (1): 111–144.  Unknown parameter |quotes= ignored (help)
  2. ^ "A meal to get your claws into". Seafood from Norway. 2006-02-06.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Lars Bevanger (2006-08-09). "Norway fears giant crab invasion". BBC News.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. ^ Alex Kirby (2003-09-27). "King crabs march towards the Pole". BBC News.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Pierre-Henry Deshayes (2006-05-24). "Barents Sea teems with 'Stalin's crabs'". Mail & Guardian.  Check date values in: |date= (help)