Environmental Protection Agency Narragansett Bay Commission University of Rhode Island Office of Marine Programs

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Feature Creatures

"The Happy Blues"
(Blue Crab)

A blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) named Jimmy was starring in the mirror before he was going to meet his fiancée. He was dressed in his best clothes-his long, narrow, inverted T-shaped coat and his new blue shoes. It was the beginning of summer now, and Jimmy was ready to relax. He was going on an important date tonight with Sally. He was going to ask her to marry him. The two crabs had met long ago when their molting began. They had been through a lot together. First, there was the larval stage, which was then followed by the juvenile stage of growth. This is when the two became real crabs with a shell and everything. Jimmy was older than Sally and already in his adult stage of growth. This meant that he was about one year old and had a hard shell to protect him from predators. Sally had just molted but still had a soft shell.

Jimmy used his paddle and back fin to swim over to Sally's house. She was living in low salinity waters in the upper area of the estuary. When Sally opened her door, she was wearing an inverted V-shaped coat and had painted her claws bright red for the occasion. They both used their walking legs to dance with each other for over five hours. Jimmy asked her to marry him, and she said "Yes." Jimmy stayed with Sally until her shell became hard. He didn't want to leave her without defense. Sally went into her closet to change her coat to her new, warmer, inverted U-shaped one. Their date was over, and she had to migrate back to high salinity water in a low estuary. She had to find a dress, and this was the best place to look.

Before spawning or finding her dress, Sally buried herself in the mud for the rest of the winter months. Jimmy visited her often as the two planned their wedding. They talked about having baby blue crabs and how 700,000 to 2 million larvae emerge but only one out of every million will survive to adulthood. This made them sad, but they agreed to give their crabs the best care. Things, such as cold water temperature, could harm their larvae so they agreed to keep them in waters that were 66 to 84°F.

It wasn't long before Jimmy and Sally were married. Sally changed her name to Sook, something all female crabs did after marriage. The crabs ate well at their wedding. Considered to be scavengers or bottom carnivores, they ate plankton, fish, plants, mollusks, crustaceans, macroinvertebrates, and even other blue crabs. They found all their food by a chemical sense (chemoreception) and also by touch (taction). After the celebration was over, the two went home to their estuary apartment and danced again.

©2001 Rob Anastasi



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