Opilio Crabs| Amazing Facts Recipes And Habitat

Chionoecetes is the proper name for Opilio crabs that live in the limited area of colder water of the northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Opilio crabs

The opilio crabs belong to snow crabs. Opilio crabs have oval-shaped backs and carapaces with deep reddish orange.

Many countries, including Russia, Japan, and the United States, harvest and consume them. Opilio crabs have been used as food since January and have lasted just one month.

Let’s learn about these crabs in this article.

Scientific Name and Classification:

Chionoecetes opilio is the scientific name of opilio crabs. These crabs are referred to as opilio crabs which have many species. Most species are known as scavengers.

Opilio Crabs Family:

Opilio crabs are related family Oregoniidae and are similar to spider crabs but sold as snow crabs. There are four different species of Opilio crabs.

  1. Chionoecetes opilio crab
  2. C.hairdi
  3. C.tanneri
  4. C.japonicus


Snow crabs are brown and red-shelled in appearance and also with yellow and white shading on the underside. This shading protects the deep waters where they live.

These species have four pairs of legs that help them move smoothly through the Alaskan oceans.

Their weight is about 2 to 5 Ibs.

Distribution, Population, and Habitat:

Opilio crabs reside in the shallow water of the Northern Pacific oceans, primarily in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland.

In 2020, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration approximated the commercial landing of snow crabs to 36.6 million pounds. There is no shortage of crabs noted in the Pacific and the Atlantic. These species do not migrate from one place to another as well as other species. The most crucial population change has been seen in the Bering sea.

Sea tides play an essential role in their distribution. These crabs live at different depths, from 66 to 265 feet. 

Reproduction And lifespan:

The male crabs reach their sexual maturity when they are 4-11 years old, and females reach sexual maturity in 4-6 years. The mating process of opilio crabs is competitive. The male crab fights for the female crab of their choice. Three weeks to mating, the male crab holds the female. During this time, the female molts in which the male helps her. 

After that, both crabs move towards shallow water. This type of migration typically occurs during the time of February to March. 

Male sperms fertilize the female’s eggs. When eggs are fertilized, the female carries them in her pleopods which are present in her abdomen. The eggs will remain in pleopods until the larvae hatch. This takes up to two years, depending on the temperature of the water.

Females produce 100,000 eggs at a time, and many larvae are made. The larvae can be found at all levels of oceans. The temperature of the water decides how long they will live in the water.

Larvae are hatched in the spring when a lot of plankton is produced.

The lifespan of opilio crabs is about 20 years.

Opilio crab maturity

Opilio Crab Maturity:

These crabs are sexually dimorphic. Mature males have proportionally longer claws as compared to females. The abdomen is small and folded under the body in males, but in females, it is circular. 

When they become sexually mature, their claws are more significant than immature male crabs. In juvenile female crabs, their abdomen and appendages increase in size, with many fine hairs on which the eggs are deposited. 

At maturity, the female crabs have about 50 mm carapace width, and the male has a 95mm carapace width. At every molt, mature males grow almost 20% in width and gain 60% in weight. A little information is present about the growth rates of females. 

Predators and prey:

Opilio crabs prey on other species and are subject to overfishing and climate change. Their meat is highly preferred among those people who enjoy seafood. 

The ocean’s warm water threatens crabs because they are likely to thrive in temperatures above 41 degrees Fahrenheit, which can lead to a shortage if the water temperature stays higher.

Humans are predators of these crabs. These crabs are a source of food for Halibut. Sea Squids and Alaskan king crabs also eat these crustaceans.

They have big claws and hard shells, which protect them from many predators.

Difference Between Male And Female Opilio Crabs:

Male and female crabs have many differences and undergo three phases in their life.

  1. Male opilio crabs undergo the Juvenile stage before they reach maturity. In this stage, their reproductive organs are not able to function. On the other hand, females experience a stage before maturity called the immature stage. In this stage, their ovaries are absent, and the abdomen is very narrow.
  2. Males in the adolescent stage cannot perform sex because they do not have claws. As you know, they use their feet to hold females for reproduction. Their ovaries in early development identify females in the next prepubescent stage. 
  3. The last stage is the adult stage in male opilio crabs, during which they do sex and reproduce. In the adult stage, the crabs stop molting completely. In females, the final stage is also the adult stage, during which they have widened abdomen size. After entering the final stage, female crabs do not molt again in their whole life.
Can you eat opilio crabs

Can you eat opilio crabs?

Opilio crabs come in edible crabs and have a good taste. They serve the best seafood. These crabs are used in many dishes like omelets, quiches, and crepes. It has a sweet and slightly salty flavor. 

How to cook opilio crabs?

Opilio crabs can be eaten by steaming their delicious appendages. It is an effortless and straightforward way of cooking. Its meat has a beautiful taste and is delicate. 

After steaming the legs, you can try dipping their legs in butter. It will enhance your taste.


Opilio crabs are tasty and widely used as a food source because of their vast legs. Opilio Crabs live in colder water, like in the Atlantic oceans. They differ from king crabs in size, appearance, and other features. 

They eat other invertebrates like crustaceans, brittle stars, and bivalves.

Their legs are tasty and helpful for your health. They help transport oxygen and are necessary for the immune system.

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