Several types of spider crabs reside throughout the world's oceans and seas. Japanese spider crabs are the largest with leg spans that may reach 13 feet. Other spider crabs included in this group include the portly spider crab, great spider crab and European spider crab. The habitat of each type of spider crab is a bit different.
Japanese Spider Crab
The Japanese spider crab, Macrocheira kaempferi, is the largest crab alive. These crabs primarily live in temperate waters of the Pacific Ocean near Japan. They inhabit the sandy bottom of the continental shelf at an average depth of 150 to 300 meters, but will migrate into shallow water once a year for spawning. Young Japanese spider crabs tend to live in shallower, warmer water and migrate to deeper water as they age.
Portly Spider Crab
The portly spider crab, Libinia emarginata, ranges from Nova Scotia to South Florida and through the Gulf of Mexico. This crab is a common inhabitant of Florida Bay and Tampa Bay. It lives in coastal and estuarine habits at depths of about 50 meters and loves to be near rivers, easily tolerating fluctuations in salinity. Adults prefer open mud or sand areas, while the young portly spider crabs can often be found in sea grass beds or attached to cannonball jellyfish.
Great Spider Crab
The great spider crab, Hyas araneus, lives in the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans reaching from Labrador to Rhode Island. In 2003 this crab was found in the Antarctic Peninsula as an invasive species. It lives on the rocks and sandy bottoms of the intertidal regions from 50 meters down to 555 meters. The great spider crab is not particular about its habitat and can be found on many types of substrates.
European Spider Crab
The European spider crab is named Maja squinado. This large circular crab lives along the east Atlantic Ocean, from the North Sea to North Africa as well as in the Mediterranean Sea. The depth at which this crab lives depends on both the season and its geographic location. In the summer the crabs often live in coastal regions 20 to 30 meters deep, while they can be found at 50 to 90 meters during the winter. Most European spider crabs live where the seabed is soft and flat, sometimes living partially buried in soft areas. Occasionally they may be found in rocky areas.
- Toledo Zoo: Giant Japanese Spider Crab
- Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan: Macrocheira Kaempferi
- Guide to Shelf Invertebrates: Libinia Emarginata Leach, 1815, Portly Spider Crab
- Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce: Libinia Dubia, Longnose Spider Crab
- Antarctic Science: Discovery of the First Known Benthic Invasive Species in the Southern Ocean: The North Atlantic Spider Crab Hyas Araneus Found in the Antarctic Peninsula
- Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom: Moult Cycle and Growth of Maja Squinado (Decapoda: Majidae) in Coastal Habitats of Galicia, North-West Spain
- University of Hawaii System: The European Spider Crab Biology and Fishery
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Based in Michigan, Keri Gardner has been writing scientific journal articles since 1998. Her articles have appeared in such journals as "Disability and Rehabilitation" and "Journal of Orthopaedic Research." She holds a Master of Science in comparative medicine and integrative biology from Michigan State University.