Thursday, September 7, 2017

Critter Tales - The Common Spider Crab

By Ryan Ledoux, communications intern

The common spider crab, also called the nine-spined spider crab, is an animal found in abundance at the Save the Bay Exploration Center. Right when you walk in, you will have an opportunity to see and hold these often concealed species. As with most crab species, people are hesitant to touch them, but these at the aquarium are safe to hold, and although they look frightening, they actually move quite slow and have a unique spiny feel when you get them in your hand.

The spider crab mostly gets a bad rap due to its name and tough looking exterior, but in reality these guys are some of the most non-threatening scavengers in the Bay! These animals can get up to about 4 inches wide with their legs stretching to almost a foot long. Spider Crabs really aren’t picky eaters and often eat up already dead things, helping clean the bay in the process. Possessing very poor vision Spider Crabs rely on sensory organs at the end of each of their legs, which can identify food as they walk over it! This comes in handy considering their claws aren’t nearly as strong as some other crab species.

The spider crab has been an inhabitant of these waters for millions of years and are considered one of the Narragansett Bay’s oldest living fossils. The body of the crab has seen very little change over this time period, proving they’re destined to stay and continue to thrive in these waters. If you do happen to startle one of these crabs, they will let you know that you are getting too close by waving their pincers over their heads in a defensive manner.

They are also masters of disguise, often burying themselves in the sand and using their khaki and mud color to blend in with their surroundings. Surprisingly, these crabs can be found at depths most humans rarely venture, deep as 50 meters! Being an avid diver myself, I have mistakenly put my hand on a Spider Crab while it was hiding on the ocean floor! It was a sight to see the crab jump out of the sand and scurry off to a new location far away from me.

The spider crab is a mainstay in Narragansett Bay and can be found in any nook and cranny looking for its next meal. Give them a chance and you’ll be amazed by their cunning nature! To see them in person, stop by Save The Bay’s Exploration Center on Easton’s Beach at 175 Memorial Blvd. Hope to see you soon!

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