Sheep crab is known by its scientific name, “Loxorhynchus Grandis.” It is the giant crab in California and belongs to the family Epialtidae.
This crab has an oval-shaped carapace covered with spines and tubercles and is about six inches.
The carapace of sheep crabs is tear-shaped with a rounded posterior, which is pointed at its snout or rostrum. There is a noticeable preorbital spine on the head of the stand, which is down-curved and notched at its tip.
The walking legs are longer than the carapace so sheep crabs may have a size of about 57% cm. Their exoskeleton and shell are reddish brown and blue. Young crabs are attached to algae, hydroids, bryozoans, sponges, and other creatures to their skeletons to save them from predators. These crabs stop molting when they become mature.
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Distribution and Habitat:
Sheep crabs reside in coastal water from Cordell Bank, California, to Punta San. It is present in water between 6 m to 152 meters deep. These crabs spend the starting months of their lives in shallow water and the cooler days in deeper waters.
Diet of sheep crab:
The sheep crabs are hunters and eat algae, sea stars and mussels, juvenile crabs, dead fish, and northern kelp crabs.
Reproduction and Life history:
Sheep crabs have separate sexes and are either male or female. They can form aggregations, piles of hundreds of crabs.
Sheep crabs typically live lonely. And it is observed that the purpose of gathering them is to gain attention from male crabs to mate.
A male carb holds a female crab for mating and conveys sperm packets. A female crab store sperms for later. Fertilization occurs internally, and the fertilized eggs come from the female’s abdomen.
Females protect eggs from predators. The female can lay 125,000 to 500,000 eggs. There is no specific season for reproduction, and its length period is unknown.
After release from the female, larval crabs are swimming planktons. They attach to the bottom and become noticeable sheep crabs when they grow up about one centimeter across.
The sheep crabs have a hard and thick exoskeleton which presents an obstacle to growth. The shell cannot expand even if the animal inside it does. Sheep crabs solve the issue like other creatures by periodically molting their old body.
The new soft shell is inflated with water and becomes rigid at this size. The animals have a lot of room to grow inside the new soft cover by replacing the water. This scheme also allows the animal to regrow limbs that have been lost. Unlike many crabs, the sheep crab winds molt when it reaches sexual maturity. In this stage, the crab loses its ability to regrow limbs.
The exact lifespan of sheep crabs is unknown, but it is almost three years.
How often do sheep crabs molt?
Sheep crabs have a hard exoskeleton that protects them from predators. When they reach maturity, their skeleton becomes more complicated, and they start to molt. Molting depends upon the age of sheep crabs; they can grow up to 2 months-3 or years before losing again.
Difference between males and females: Sheep crab
Males have more extended claws than females. Males can reach up to 17 cm, antagonistic to females, which can reach up to 11 cm. It is also surprising to note that females store sperm for the future when no male crab is available. So, females can keep up to fertilized eggs and lay anywhere from 125,000 to 500,000.
Juvenile sheep crabs protect themselves by hiding between barnacles, algae, and hydroids. Once they reached maturity, sheep crabs ended up decorating themselves. They like to hide out in reefs and pilings. Both males and female crabs drift toward shallower water during warmer weather. It is typical to see them while on a dive.
Are sheep crabs edible?
Yes, sheep crabs are edible. You can eat them by steaming them, and grilling makes your taste more luxurious and delicious. Before eating, ensure their poison parts are removed, as crab’s gills are toxic and not digestible.
You can boil them for 30-45 minutes and experience a delicious taste.
Sheep crabs are the giant ones named because of their wool-like covering. Their size limit for males is about 9.6 inches, and females are 6.8 inches long.
Their meat is delicious and found in both body and legs. But it is hard to clean and remove its thick shell.
They live in sandy-bottom areas 30 to 70 feet deep in spring and about 120 to 240 feet deep in winter.
There are regulations about sheep crabs in California. About 95000 pounds can be caught per year. The fishery department closes the fishery when their catch limit is completed.