This crab was lying on the shingle at Ringstead Bay in Dorset. I was immediately attracted to the lovely blue and white sculpturing on the orange exoskeleton of the large claws. Having photographed the underside of the crab from every angle, I turned it over to do the same on the upper side. Only then did I realise it was still alive – just! I put it back in the sea. Looking at the picture now, I can see that that red eye was actually looking at me!
It was a Velvet Fiddler, Swimming or Devil Crab – Necora puber (Linnaeus). The characteristics of this species are:
- The Velvet Fiddler Crab is beautifully marked.
- The carapace is rather flat and up to 65mm wide and long.
- More or less rectangular with 5 sharp teeth on each side.
- There are 10 smaller teeth on the carapace edge between the bright red eyes.
- The hind legs are flattened like paddles with a fringe of brown hairs to help with swimming.
- The shell is a dark bluish colour and the upper surface of the shell has a fine velvety coating.
- The front legs or chelipeds are slender with rows of small tubercles on the end joint.
- The crab swims rapidly sideways and has a reputation for being fierce; it will rear up aggressively in a threat position when disturbed.
- It lives on the lower shore or shallow waters on rocky coasts where it can occur in large numbers on moderately sheltered shores.
- It is fished commercially in some regions and is common on all British coasts.
For more detailed information about Velvet Swimming Crabs see the web site of the Marine Life Information Network (marLIN).
Revision of a post first published 19 March 2009
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