Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Crab Sex!

Every year we go to Watercolor, FL for our family vacation. And every year at Watercolor, we take the children crab hunting at night (usually 2-3x in the week). This year, we got to the beach a couple of weeks earlier than usual. And we noticed something we have never had the opportunity to see before. It was mating season!

First, we caught a glimpse of these two lovers.

My, what huge arms you have....

You see, the children know many things about mating because they have witnessed the act among dogs and have asked every question under the sun. So to see two crabs mating was immensely exciting (in an educational sort of way).

We kept noticing that the smaller crabs (female) had a orange spongy type sack underneath her hind legs. You guessed it - a FERTILIZED egg sack!

We couldn't wait to get back to the house and begin researching crabs: life cycle, differences between male and female and oh yes, crab sex.

This is what we found out.

Fertilization takes place after the female has molted, so the shell is still soft.

When fertilization has taken place, the eggs are released onto the female's abdomen, below the tail flap, secured with a sticky material. In this location they are protected during embryonic development (it reminds me of how spider mamas carry their eggs on their backs).

Females carrying eggs are called "berried" since the eggs resemble round berries. When development is complete, the female releases the newly-hatched larvae into the water. The release is often timed with the tides. The free-swimming tiny larvae can float and take advantage of water currents.

There are several stages of molts (if you live that long!), until finally the baby crab becomes a "juvenile", at which time it can live on the bottom rather than floating aimlessly with the current.

Finally, a shout out to the CRAB HUNTERS! Creighton Alexander and John Arsenault. What an awesome night!

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