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up pellets of moist sand, which they carry under the three anterior ambulatory legs that are on
the rear side, climbing out of their burrows by means of the legs of the side in front, aided by the
posterior leg of the other side. After arriving at the mouth of their burrows and taking a cautious
survey of the landscape, they run quickly to the distance often of four or five feet from the burrow
before dropping their load, using the same legs as before and carrying the dirt in the same
manner. They then take another careful survey of the surroundings, run nimbly back to the
hole, and after again turning their pedunculated eyes in every direction suddenly disappear, soon
to reappear with another load. They work in this way both in the night and in the brightest
sunshine, whenever the tide is out and the weather is suitable. In coming out or going into their

Tin: OVSTKI; c\i\\\. 765

liurrtiws either side may go in :nlv;iiirr. Imt tin- male more coininonly comes out with the large
Haw torwanl. According to Mr. Smith's oliscrvat ions tliis species is a vegetarian, feeding uj>on
the minute alga- which grows ii]Min the moist sand. In feeding, the males use only the small
Haw, with which they pick up the hits ot al^c very daintily; the females use indifferently either
of their small Haws tor this purpose. They always swallow more or less sand with their food.
Mr. Smith also saw these Crabs engaged in scraping up the surface of the sand where covered
with their favorite alga-, which they loraicd into pellets and carried into their holes, in the same
way that they liriug sand out, doubtless storing it until needed for food, for he often found large
quantities stored in the terminal chamber."

As above stated, the Fiddler Crabs are sometimes used as bait; and at the month of the
Mississippi River (I. jmi/naj- has been observed, in connection with the river Cray-fish (Cambarug),
burrowing into and greatly damaging the levees.


According to \V. X. Lockington, these two species are by far the most abundant of all the
California coast Crabs; but they are only eaten by the Chinese. The body of these Crabs is
nearly square, and the claws large in proportion. In H. oregonenais the anterior half of the
lateral margins on each side has two rather deep indentations, resulting in the formation of two
large spine like projections, which bend strongly forward; in H. nudus these characters are less
pronounced. The four posterior pairs of limbs in H. oregontnsis are also more or less hairy,
while in H. nvdvs they are naked. The general color of the former species is yellow, of the
latter purple; H. ntidu* also has marbled hands and attains a somewhat larger size than H.
oreffonensis, measuring at times two inches broad. Hundreds of one or other of these species of
both sexes and of all sizes may frequently be found together, congregated under a single stone.
H. oregonensis is especially abundant in muddy sloughs of salt or brackish water, where it
literally swarms. Hundreds of uplifted threatening claws welcome the intruder who ventures
near these mud flats when the tide is out. Both species occur at Pnget Sound, and range thence
southward to the southern limit of California. H. nvdvs also occurs at the Sandwich Islands.
Both species are eaten to some extent by the Chinese, who spit them on wires and cook them
over their fires.


"The 'Oyster-crab,' Pinnotheres ostreum, is found wherever oysters occur. The female lives,
at least when mature, within the shell of the oyster, in the gill cavity, and is well known to most
consumers of oysters. The males are seldom seen, and rarely, if ever, occur in the oyster. We
found them, on several occasions, swimming actively at the surface of the water in the middle of
Vineyard Sound. They are quite unlike the females in appearance, being smaller, with a firmer
shell, and they differ widely in color, for the carapax is dark brown above, with a central dorsal
stripe and two conspicuous spots of whitish ; the lower side and legs are whitish. The female has
the carapax thin and translucent, whitish, tinged with pink." 1

This Crab has been recorded from the Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to South Carolina.
The females measure, when adult, about half an inch broad and a little less in length. From the
European Oyster-crab (Pinnothere* pisum) our species diners in having a thinner and more
membranaceous shell and a larger size. The colors are also different in the two species.

1 VERRILL: Vineyard Sound Report, p. 367, 1871-'72.


Pinnotheres ostrevm is eaten both raw and cooked, either along with the oysters with which it
is associated, or as a separate dish. It is also pickled for domestic use and for the trade.

Another species of Pinnotheres (P. mactilatitm) frequently occurs in the shells of the common
sea-mussel (Mytilus edulis) and the smooth scallop (Pecten tenuicostatux), between the gills of the
animal. It attains a larger size than the Oyster-crab, and, as in the case of the latter, the females
alone are parasitic, the males having only been found swimming at the surface of the sea. We
have never heard of this species being eaten, probably because neither the mussel nor the smooth
scallop has ever been used much as food in this country. In the summer of 1880, while dredging
off Newport, Rhode Island, the United States Fish Commission steamer Fish Hawk came upon
extensive beds of the smooth scallop, from a bushel of which nearly a pint of these Crabs were
obtained. Again, in 1881, the same species was encountered in great abundance by the same
party, in Vineyard Sound, in Mytilus edulis. As an experiment, they were cooked along with the
mussels and found to be very palatable, although their shell is, perhaps, somewhat harder than
that of Pinnotheres ostreum.

A third species of Pinnotheres occurs upon the west coast of the United States, in the shells of
Pachydesma and Kfytilus californianus.


DISTRIBUTION AND HABITS. This is the common Crab of the New England coast, where
adult specimens occur in all depths of water from low-tide level to about twelve fathoms
Smaller specimens have, however, been obtained in from thirty to fifty fathoms, both near
the coast and on George's Bank, Stellwagen's Bank, and elsewhere. Its entire range, so far
as determined, is from the Straits of Belle Isle, Labrador, to South Carolina. In the Gulf of
Saint Lawrence it is exceedingly abundant, but south of New Jersey it is rare. According to
Prof. S. I. Smith, 1 this species is not common in the muddy bays of the New Jersey coast, but
is thrown up in large numbers upon the sandy outer beaches; it is abundant on the sandy shores
of the southern side of Long Island, and on the sanfly and rocky shores of Long Island Sound ;
it is equally abundant, in similar situations, along all the rest of the south coast of New
England and in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Casco Bays, but is apparently less common in
the Bay of Fundy and at Halifax, Nova Scotia. "When found living between tides it is usually
concealed among rocks or buried beneath the sand. It is usually much more abundant at or just
below low-water mark, however, than between tides.* 1

"The common 'Rock Crab,' Cancer irroratus,is generally common under the large rocks near
low-water mark, and often lies nearly buried in the sand and gravel beneath them. It can be
easily distinguished by having nine blunt teeth along each side of the front edge of its shell or
carapax, and by its reddish color sprinkled over with darker brownish dots. This crab also occurs
in the pools, where the comical combats of the males may sometimes be witnessed. It is not
confined to rocky shores, but is common also on sandy shores, as well as on rocky and gravelly
bottoms off shore. It is widely diffused along our coast, extending both north and south, and is
common even on the const of Labrador. Like all the other species of crabs, this is greedily
devoured by many of the larger fishes, such as cod, haddock, tautog, black bass, and especially
by sharks and sting-rays. wa

EXTERNAL CHARACTERS. The carapax of the Rock Crab is transversely suboval in outline,
and about two-thirds as long as broad; the upper surface is moderately convex, with unequal

"Trans. Conn. Acad., v, p. 38, 1879. 'VEEBILL: Vineyard Sound Report, p. 312, 1871-"72.


but symmetrically arranged mamiiiillatious, some of which arc scarcely defined. The surface
appears nearly smooth, but is really covered with closely-placed, minute 1:1 animations. The eyes
. stand on short, stout peduncles, which lie in deep circular holes on cither side of the middle of
the front margin. Between the eyes there are three small teeth, ami on each side, between the
eyes and the outer edge of the shell, the margin is indented to form nine broad and stout teeth.
The claws are rather short ami stout, the inner margins of the fingers bearing each a row of
few, large, blunt, and sometimes double tubercles. The four posterior pairs of legs are similar
to one another, long and slender, with pointed tips. The ground color of the carapax is yellowish,
closely dotted with dark purplish-brown, which becomes a reddish-brown after death.

The only species of Crab upon our Atlantic coast which could possibly be confounded with
the present one is Cancer borealis, of which a description is given following this. The differences
between the two species being once pointed out, there is no difficulty in distinguishing between

ECONOMIC VALUE. The Rock Crab is not much in demand as an article of food. It is sold
to some extent in the markets at Boston, New Bedford, Newport, New York, and perhaps
elsewhere within the limits of its range, generally, if not always, in a hard-shell condition.
But even in Boston, where it could be easily supplied, its place is mainly taken by the common
edible Blue Crab (Callinectes hagtatuti), which is sent there fresh from New York and other
localities. The two species of Cancer are, however, more nearly related to the English edible
Crab (Cancer pagurus) than is our own common edible Crab, and, were this kind of food more
appreciated by the American seacoast inhabitants, there is no reason why the Rock Crab, as
well as the "Jonah," should not be utilized to a very great extent. In some places, Newport
for instance, the two species of Cancer, but especially the Cancer boreali*, aie preferred to the
Callinectes hastatus, but this is not the rule elsewhere.

DEVELOPMENT. The following account of the growth and development of this Crab, by
Prof. S. I. Smith, will suffice, in a general way, for nearly all the American species of Crabs, and
will serve to indicate the curious changes which take place before the simple crab egg becomes a
well-developed Crab. Such an account as this becomes very valuable in many cases as v means of
pointing out the essential details to be followed in the artificial breeding of marine animals.

"All, or at least nearly all, the species of Crabs living on the coast of New England pass
through very complete and remarkable metamorphoses. The most distinct stages through which
they pass were long ago described as two groups of crustaceans, far removed from the adult forms
of which they were the young. The names Zoea and Megalops, originally applied to these groups,
are conveniently retained for the two best marked stages in the development of the Crabs.

"The young of the common Crab (Cancer in-oratus), in the earlier or zoea stage, when first
hatched from the egg, are somewhat like the form figured [reproduced on one of the plates at the
end of this volume], but the spines upon the carapax are all much longer in proportion, and there
are no signs of the abdominal legs or of any of the future legs of the Megalops and Crab.
In this stage they are very small, much smaller than in the stage figured. After they
have increased very much in si/e, and have molted probably several times, they appear as in
the figure just referred to. The terminal segment of the abdomen, seen only in a side view in tin
figure, is very broad and divided nearly to the base by a broad sinus; each side the margins
project in long, spiuiform, diverging processes, at the base of which the margin of the sinus is
armed with six to eight spines on each side. When alive they are translucent, with deposits of
dark pigment forming spots at the articulations of the abdomen and a few upon the cephalothorax
and its appendages. In this stage they were taken at the surface in Vineyard Sound, in immense


numbers, from June 23 to late in August. They were most abundant in the early part of July,
and appeared in the greatest numbers on calm, sunny days.

"Several Zoefe of this stage were observed to change directly to the megalops form. Shortly
before the change took place they were not quite as active as previously, but still continued to
swim about until they appeared to be seized by violent convulsions, and after a moment began to
wriggle rapidly out of the old zoea skin, and at once appeared in the full megalops form. The
new integument seems to stiffen at once, for in a very few moments after freeing itself from the
old skin the new Megalops was swimming about as actively as the oldest individuals.

" In this megalops stage the animal begins to resemble the adult. The five pairs of cepha-
lothoracic legs are much like those of the adult, and the mouth-organs have assumed nearly their
final form. The eyes, however, are still enormous in size, the carapax is elongated and has a
slender rostrum and a long spine projecting from the cardiac region far over the posterior border,
and the abdomen is carried extended, and is furnished with powerful swimming-legs, as in the
Macroura. In color and habits they are quite similar to the later stage of the Zoe from which
they came; their motions appear, however, to be more regular and not so rapid, although they
swim with great facility. In this Megalops the dactyli of the posterior cephalothoracic legs are
styliform, and are each furnished at the tip with three peculiar setae of different lengths and with
strongly curved extremities, the longest one simple and about as long as the dactylus itself, while
the one next in length is armed along the inner side of the curved extremity with what appear to
be minute teeth, and the shortest one is again simple.

"According to the observations made at Wood's Holl, the young of Cancer irroratm remain
in the Megalops stage only a very short time, and at the first molt change to a form very near
that of the adult. Notwithstanding this, they occurred in vast numbers, and were taken in the
towing-nets in greater quantities even than in the zoea stage. Their time of occurrence seemed
nearly simultaneous with that of the Zoeaj, and the two forms were almost always associated. The
exact time any particular individual remained in this stage was observed only a few times. One
full-grown Zoea obtained June 23, and place d in a vessel by itself, changed to a Megalops between
and 11.30 a. m. of June 24, and did not molt again till the forenoon of June 27, when it became
a young Crab of the form described farther on. Of the two other Zoese obtained at the same time,
and placed together in a dish, one changed to a Megalops between 9 and 11.30 a. m. of June 24,
the other during the following night; these both changed to Crabs during the night of June 26
and 27.

"In the two or three instances in which the change from the Megalops to the young Crab was
actually observed, the Megalops sank to the bottom of the dish and remained quiet for some time
before the molting took place. The muscular movements seemed to be much less violent than in
the molting at the close of the zoea stage, and the little Crab worked himself out of the megalops
skin quite slowly. For a short time after their appearance the young Crabs were soft and inactive,
but the integument very soon stiffened, and in the course of two or three hours they acquired all
the pugnacity of the adult. They swam about with ease and were constantly attacking each
other and their companions in the earlier stages. Many of the deaths recorded in the above
memorandum were due to them, and on this account they were removed from the vessel at each
observation. In this early stage the young Crabs are quite different from the adult. The carapax
is about three millimeters long and slightly less in breadth. The front is much more prominent
than in the adult, but still has the same number of lobes and the same general form. The antero-
lateral margin ia much more longitudinal than in the adult, and is armed with the five normal
teeth, which are long and acute, and four very much smaller secondary teeth alternating with the

HABITS 01' Till: .ION All CRAB. 769

normal ones. The antcnnte and ambulatory logs arc proportionally longer than in the adult. The
young Crabs in this stage were once or twice taken in the towing-net, but they were not common
at the surface, although a large number were found, with a few in the megalops stage, among
hydrouls upon a floating barrel in Vineyard Sound, July 7. WI


AFFINITIES. The " Jonah Crab " is very closely related to the common Rock Crab, and is
also to some extent associated with it in its distribution. The two species are so much alike in
shape and general characters that they were originally regarded as the male and female respect-
ively of one and the same species. They are, however, quite distinct, and after the differences
have been once noticed there is no difficulty in distinguishing between them. The Jonah Crab
differs from the Rock Crab in the much larger size of adult specimens, in the rougher surface of
the carapax and claws, caused by the larger granules covering it, which are of irregular size, some
being much larger than others, and by the serrations of the antero lateral margins being crenate
and the posterior ones armed with numerous sharp points, instead of being simple as in the Rock
Crab. The legs of the Jonah Crab are also proportionately shorter and heavier than those of
the Rock Crab. The color of Cancer borralis is yellowish beneath and brick-red above, the limbs
corresponding more or less in coloration with the lower surface, but of a light reddish tint above.

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITS. Besides being found in moderately deep water, the Jonah Crab,
in certain localities, inhabits the rocks near low-tide level, in the clear waters of the ocean shores,
but it never occurs in muddy or sandy bays and harbors where the Rock Crab abounds. The
range of Cancer borealis is from the eastern end of Long Island Sound to Nova Scotia, but it is
not found everywhere within these limits, being apparently local in its distribution and abundant
only within certain more or less restricted areas. The principal localities where it has been
observed are as follows: off Noaiik, Connecticut; off Watch Hill and Newport, and in Narra-
gansett Bay, Rhode Island; Vineyard Sound, Neman's Land, and Salem, Massachusetts; Casco
Bay, Maine ; Bay of Fundy and Nova Scotia. In 1880, the United States Fish Commission found
the Jonah Crab abundant everywhere in the lower part of Narragansett Bay from about low-tide
level down to the greatest depths of the bay, and it was likewise very common off the bay, and
off the north end of Block Island. The following account of the habits and distribution of this
species is taken from Prof. S. I. Smith's account:*

"In habits this species differs very greatly from irroratug. The best opportunities which I
have had for observing it were at Peak's Island, in Casco Bay, August and September, 1873.
Empty carapaces, chelipeds, etc., of boreali* were at first found in abundance scattered along the
outer shores, far above the action of the waves, where they had evidently been carried by gulls
and crows, and were also found in considerable numbers half a mile from the shore, in a forest of
coniferous trees thickly inhabited by crows. For several weeks no living specimens of borealii
were discovered, although the irroratus was found living in abundance all about the island,
without, however, its remains scarcely ever being found scattered about with those of borealia.
The borealis was finally discovered in abundance at low water on the exposed and very rocky
shores of the northern end of the island. At this locality, between eighty and ninety specimens,
all females aud many of them carrying eggs, were obtained in a single morning. They were all
found in situations exposed to the action of the waves, and were either resting, entirely exposed,
upon the bare rocks and ledges, or clinging to the seaweeds in the edge of the waves, or in the

1 8. I. Smith, Vineyard Sound Report, pp. 530-633, 1871-'72.
'Trans. Conn. Acad., v, p. 40, 1879.
49 F


tide-pools. They were never found concealed beneath the rocks, where, however, irroratus
abounded. It is a much heavier and more massive species than the irroratus, and is consequently
much better adapted than that species to the situations in which it is found. So many individuals
falling a prey to birds is evidently a result of the habit of remaining exposed between tides,
although the heavy shell must afford much greater protection than the comparatively fragile
covering of irroratus would afford to that species if similarly exposed. The lorealis was also
found at a somewhat similar locality, but more exposed to the sea, on Ham Island Ledge, a low
reef open to the full force of the ocean. One specimen of moderate size was dredged in the ship
channel between Peak's Island and Cape Elizabeth, in ten fathoms, rocky and shelly bottom, and
specimens were several times captured in lobster-traps, set at a depth of eight or ten fathoms,
among rocks. Specimens were also several times found in stomachs of the cod taken on the cod

"In the vicinity of Vineyard Sound, this species was not infrequently found thrown upon
sandy beaches, but never upon beaches very far removed from rocky reefs. The following are
the localities where it was seen in greatest numbers: Along the sandy beach of Martha's
Vineyard, from Meuemsha Bight to Gay Head; the rocky island of Cuttyhunk; and the rocky
outer shores of Neman's Land, where dead specimens were found in considerable abundance. In
the vicinity of Noauk, Connecticut, it was occasionally found dead upon the shores, and was
several times obtained from lobster-traps.

"The largest specimens I have seen are two males, of almost exactly the same size, one from
Casco Bay, the other from near Noank, Connecticut. The carapax of the specimen from Casco
Bay is three and one-half inches long and five and three-fourths inches broad."

ECONOMIC VALUE. Cancer borealis is supplied to the Newport markets in small quantities
during most of the summer months, and is much esteemed there as food, being considered by
many preferable to the Blue Crab (Callinectes hastatus). It is taken by the fishermen on the shore
and in shallow water.

NAME. The term " Jonah Crab," which we have adopted here for this species, is the one by
which it is commonly known in and about Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, and to some extent
also about Vineyard Sound, Massachusetts, but apparently not elsewhere. The origin of the
name we have not been able to ascertain. In most localities where it occurs it is confounded by
the fishermen with the commoner Rock Crab.


This is the largest of the edible species of Crabs of the Pacific coast of the United States, and
likewise the most important. It is the only species commonly eaten in San Francisco, although
two other species inhabiting the same region, and which are described further on (Cancer producing
and Cancer atitennarius), are also edible and of good flavor. The carapax of adult males usually
measures from seven to nine inches in breadth and four to five inches in length; the females
average much smaller. The color of the upper surface is a light reddish-brown, darkest in front;
the limbs and under surface are yellowish. The anterior margin of the carapax forms a nearly
i.-ulai HliptirMl curve, reaching back to about the middle of the sides and interrupted by nine
slightly prominent, sharp teeth on eah side. At the termination of this curve on each side, there

Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 127 of 146)