Field Guide - Red King Crab

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adult - female
Female red king crab egg clutch
NOAA Alaska Fisheries and Science Center
adult - male
Red king crab
2 yr old juvenile red king crab

Red King Crab

Paralithodes camtschaticus

Number of Confirmed Sightings: 0

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Family: Lithodidae
Genus: Paralithodes
Species: camtschaticus

Description: The red king crab can be found mainly off the coasts of the Bering Sea and Aleutian islands, but also throughout the waters of southeast Alaska in depths of up to 250 m. These crabs are known for their large size and flavor, making them a popular commercially harvested crab in the winter months.

Population status: Their populations are steady and rising in the Bering Sea, but are in decline in other parts of Alaska, resulting in the closure of fisheries in these other areas until stocks reestablish.

General characteristics: Reddish brown to purple in color with light abdomens and a spiny shell, right claw usually larger than the left, three sets of walking legs, and two small rear legs for egg cleaning or sperm transfer.

Female defining traits: Smaller than males, up to 10.5 pounds, egg mass may be visible under their wide abdominal flaps.

Male defining traits: Larger than females, up to 24 pounds, 5 foot leg span, and abdominal flap is narrow.

Juvenile defining traits: May only reach 2–3 cm in diameter for the first few years, stays in shallow waters, and clusters in balls with thousands of others.

Diet in the wild: Fish, algae, sea stars, urchins, clams, mussels, barnacles, and other seafloor invertebrates.

Reproductive cycle: An egg mass (43,000 to 500,000 eggs!) are carried for a year by the female, and once released, the female will produce another egg mass immediately.

Predators in the wild: Sea otters, octopuses, other crabs, and larger fish like Pacific cod and halibut.

Similar species: Golden and blue king crab