Crabzilla! Queen Of The Deep!

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Chionoecetes tanneri (chio-snow and ioketes-inhabitant) are commonly referred to as Grooved Tanner Crabs and related to the more commercially important snow crab, C. opilio. C. tanneri is from the infraorder Brachyura (short-tailed) or the true crabs (Phylum Arthropoda, Subphylum Crustacea, Class Malacostraca, Order Decapoda, Suborder Plecyemata, Infraorder Brachyura, Superfamily Majioidea, Family Majidae). Tanners may live to an estimated maximum age of 14 years feeding upon a wide assortment of marine life including worms, clams, mussels, snails, crabs, other crustaceans, and fish parts. Females mate with an adult male for the first time during her last molt, mating in the softshell condition while grasped by the male. Older hardshelled females are also mated by adult males, but in the absence of a male they are capable of producing an egg clutch with sperm stored from a previous mating. A female Tanner crab may deposit 85,000 to 424,000 eggs in a clutch. Hatching occurs late the following winter and spring with the peak hatching period usually during April to June, coinciding with the spring bloom. After ~60 days the larvae lose their swimming ability and settle to the ocean bottom. After numerous molts and several years of growth, females mature at approximately 5 years of age. Males will mature at about 6 years.
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I have had a long standing interest in the body size of organisms, especially those from the deep sea. I experienced a little euphoria when I first encountered this fine specimen las year. Crabzilla is a female and substantially larger than most of her kind with a carapace width of 15.30 cm (1206.5g, A big lady indeed!). In another study that contained more than 750 adults none reached carapace widths over 14.5 cm (mean=11cm). The two pictures display Crabzilla and a typical size tanner (note the white line is the same length in both pictures). She was captured at 1035m in January in Monterey Canyon and lived in an aquarium here at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute for better part of a year.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


One Reply to “Crabzilla! Queen Of The Deep!”

  1. In the Gulf of Mexico, we commonly see another majid crab, Rochinia tanneri. Perhaps there is only one true majid tanneri??

    They can get big, but the largest I’ve seen personally had about 3-4 inch carapace width.

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