Metacarcinus gracilis (Dana, 1852) Schweitzer and Feldmann, 2000
Common name(s): Graceful rock crab, Graceful crab, Slender crab
|Synonyms: Cancer gracilis|
|Metacarcinus gracilis, about 5 cm carapace width, from 100 m depth, San Juan Channel|
|(Photo by: Dave Cowles, July 2006)|
How to Distinguish from Similar Species:Metacarcinus
magister has a carapace
widest at the 10th tooth, with no teeth behind that point, and also has
spiny ridges on the carpus, propodus,
of the chela.
It also has more flattened dactyls
on the pereopods
and the dorsal surface of the upper parts of the legs is not purple.
Note: Species formerly in genus Cancer have been recently subdivided into several genera (Ng et al., 2008; Schweitzer and Feldmann, 2010). Of our local genera, Cancer and Metacarcinus have a carapace wider than long plus only scattered setae on the carapace margins and legs while Glebocarcinus has a carapace of approximately equal length and width, often with granular regions and with setae along the edges; and setae on the outer surface of the chela as well as on the legs. Metacarcinus can be distinguished from Cancer because Metacarcinus has anterolateral carapace teeth which are distinct and sharp plus the male has a rounded tip to the telson, while Cancer has anterolateral carapace teeth which are low and lobed, separated by deep fissures plus the male has a sharply pointed telson (Schram and Ng, 2012).
Geographical Range: Prince William Sound, Alaska to Baja California, Mexico
Depth Range: Intertidal to 174 m
Habitat: Mainly subtidal on sand and mud, sometimes near eelgrass beds. May be on pilings.
Biology/Natural History: This species is a scavenger, or eats small invertebrates. Predators include staghorn sculpin, starry flounder, the seastar Astropecten verrelli, and the giant octopus Enteroctopus dofleini. Females usually are found buried in the mud. Seasonally found in bays but cannot osmoregulate and does not tolerate brackish conditions. In Puget Sound eggs were borne from December to April. Males protect females after mating. Megalopae and juveniles often cling to large jellyfish such as Pelagia colorata.
|Main Page||Alphabetic Index||Systematic Index||Glossary|
Johnson and Snook, 1955
Morris et al., 1980
O'Clair and O'Clair, 1998
The tips of the chelae are white. There are no spiny ridges on the carpus, propodus, or dactyl of the chelae, though there are two spines or tubercles on the dorsal ridge of the dactyl.
The appendages seen covering the mouth are the maxillipeds, which are found in all crabs. The white objects between the maxillipeds are the hardened tips of the mandibles.
|This female C. gracilis, 8.5 cm carapace width, was found at March Point. She appears to be gravid (carrying eggs). The eggs, however, are much smaller and dirtier-looking than crab eggs usually are, leading me to suspect that she may be parasitized by a rhizocephalan sacculinid barnacle. However, the "eggs" did not form a sac-like structure as usually seen in rhizocephalans.||Raising the abdomen shows the dark gray and black mass of eggs. The female was docile and made little attempt to escape or to pinch.||A view through the microscope shows the mass is composed of a large number of tiny, slightly flattened, egg-like objects attached to her pleopods. Note the tip of her chela at the top right for size. I will have to watch for more gravid females to see whether these tiny, dirty-looking eggs are the norm for Cancer gracilis. Photos by Dave Cowles July 2007|
This view of a Padilla Bay crab shows the purple legs seen in many individuals. Photo by Dave Cowles July 2008