Japanese spider crabs most often inhabit the sandy and rocky bottom of the continental shelf and slope at an average depth of 150-300 meters. They have, however been found at depths of 600 feet. During spawning season the crabs spend most of their time in shallower waters around 50 meters. In Suruga Bay, at depths of 300 meters, the temperature is around 10 degrees Celsius. Younger crabs tend to live in shallower areas with warmer temperatures. (Okamoto, 1993; Sakai, 2010)
- Range depth
- 50 to 600 m
- 164.04 to 1968.50 ft
- Average depth
- 200 m
- 656.17 ft
Although not the heaviest, the Japanese giant spider crab is the largest known living arthropod. The well-calcified carapace is only around 37 centimeters long, but adult specimens can be nearly 4 meters long from one tip of one cheliped (a claw-bearing leg) to the other when stretched apart. The carapace ofis sub-circular and pear-shaped (pyriform), narrower towards the head. Females tend to have wider, although slightly smaller, abdomens than males. Spiny and stubby tubercles (growths) cover the carapace, which ranges from dark orange to light tan in color. It possesses no cryptic coloration and is unable to change color. The rostrum (an extension of the carapace above the head) is shaped into two slender spines that jut out from between the eyes. The base of the well-developed antennae is fused with the epistome (the area above the mouth).
The carapace tends to stay the same size throughout adulthood, but the walking legs and chelipeds lengthen considerably as the crab ages. Spider crabs are known for having long, spindly legs. Like the carapace, the legs are also orange, but may be blotchy and mottled with both orange and white. The walking legs of (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, 2011; Okamoto, 2001; Park, 1988; Sakai, 1965; Sakai, 2010; Wicksten, 1992)end simply in inwardly-curving dactyls (the movable part at the tip of a walking leg). These assist the creature in climbing and hooking onto rock, but prevent it from picking up or grasping objects. In adult males the chelipeds are far longer than any of the walking legs, with the right and left chelipeds being of equal size. Females, on the other hand, tend to possess chelipeds that are shorter than the other walking legs. The merus (upper portion of the leg) is slightly longer than the palm (portion of the leg containing the unmoving part of the claw), but comparable in shape. The weak movable finger is small, taking up less than a quarter of the palm. Although long, the legs are often weak. One study reported that nearly three quarters of these crabs are missing at least one limb, most often one of the first walking legs. This is because the limbs are long and poorly-jointed to the body of the organism, and tend to come off due to predators and nets. Spider crabs can usually survive with up to 3 walking legs missing. The walking legs often grow back during the successive molts.
- Sexual Dimorphism
- sexes shaped differently
- Range mass
- 16 to 20 kg
- 35.24 to 44.05 lb
- Range length
- 3.7 (high) m
- 12.14 (high) ft
- Average length
- 3 m
- 9.84 ft
This species goes through two zoeal stages and one megalopa stage. The zoeal stages generally last between 12-37 days, a shorter duration than other crabs in the same region. The megalopa stage typically lasts an average of 30 days. During the first molt (the prezoeal stage) the hatchlings writhe about, eventually slowly drifting to the sea bed. Here, each hatchling thrashes about until it flicks up the spines on its carapace. This dislodges the cuticle, and allows it to wriggle out by twisting and pulling until it frees itself. (Clark and Webber, 1991; Okamoto, 1991; Okamoto, 1993; Okamoto, 2001; Okamoto, 2003)
The optimal rearing temperature for all larval stages is between 15-18 degrees Celsius, while the survival temperature is 11-20 degrees Celsius. Larval stages can most likely be found at shallower depths, then later move to deeper waters. In Suruga Bay, the temperature at 300 meters is around 10 degrees, and only adults may be found at these depths. These survival temperatures are much higher than those of other decapod species in the region. In the lab, at optimum growth conditions, only around 75% survive the first zoeal stage. This number drops to around 33% for the second zoeal and megalopa stages. (Okamoto, 1993)
- Development - Life Cycle
These spider crabs mate seasonally during early spring, from January through March. Mating behavior is rarely observed. Male crabs hold sperm in spermatophores, which are inserted into the female's abdomen using the first two chelipeds. (Arakawa, 1964; Hartnoll, 1969)
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- Breeding interval
- Giant Japanese spider crabs mate once a year, seasonally between January and April
- Breeding season
- Early spring
- Range number of offspring
- 1,500,000 eggs (high)
Females carry eggs on their backs and lower bodies during incubation until they hatch. In this way, the mother can stir the water with her back legs to oxygenate the eggs. After the eggs hatch, there is no parental investment and the larvae are left to fend for themselves. (Arakawa, 1964; Hartnoll, 1969)
- Parental Investment
- female parental care
Relatively little is known information regarding the longevity of this species. It is often reported that one of these crabs may live to be 100 years old in its natural habitat, but this may be conjecture. Other reports indicate that (; Park, 1988)generally live for over half of a century.
- Typical lifespan
- 100 (high) years
- Typical lifespan
There is no information available concerning the home range for this species.
Communication and Perception
- Communication Channels
- Animal Foods
- aquatic crustaceans
- other marine invertebrates
- Plant Foods
- Other Foods
Many juveniles decorate their shells with sponges, kelp, or other objects to disguise themselves. However, most adults do not because their large size deters most predators. Although slow-moving, they use their claws against smaller predators. (Wicksten, 1992)
- Anti-predator Adaptations
is not an active predator, as it mainly scavenges the seafloor for dead and decaying matter.
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
- Positive Impacts
- body parts are source of valuable material
- research and education
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no known adverse effects ofon humans. They rarely come into contact with humans, and their weak claws are fairly harmless.
There is insufficient data concerning the conservation status for the Japanese spider crab. The catch of this species has declined considerably in the last 40 years. Some researchers have put forth a method for recovery which involves restocking with juvenile crabs artificially cultured in fisheries. In Japan, laws prohibit fishermen from catching (Freeman, 2010; Okamoto, 1993)during mating season in the early spring, from January until April, in order to keep natural populations up and to give the species a chance to spawn.
There has been much conflict between larval- and adult- based classification. Some support the use of a separate family for this species, but much further study is needed. (Clark and Webber, 1991; Ng, et al., 2008)
Originally Maja before later being placed in Macrocheira. Today, this species is the only known surviving member of Macrocheira, and is regarded as one of the earliest-branching members of Majidae. For this reason, it is often referred to as a living fossil. (Clark and Webber, 1991; Ng, et al., 2008)was incorrectly placed in the genus
William Riebel (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Renee Mulcrone (editor), Special Projects.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.
- bilateral symmetry
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
flesh of dead animals.
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
an animal that mainly eats decomposed plants and/or animals
particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).
animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature
- female parental care
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.
- internal fertilization
fertilization takes place within the female's body
seaweed. Algae that are large and photosynthetic.
A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
- native range
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
- saltwater or marine
mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.
- seasonal breeding
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
uses sight to communicate
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