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Seaweek 2010: Oceans of Life - ours to explore; ours to restore

Creature Features

Crystal Crab

Scientific Name: Chaceon albus
Phylum: Arthropoda

The crystal crab is endemic to the deep coastal waters off the West Australian coast, found as north as Exmouth (22S) and east to the South Australian border (129E). They are found in depths of 450 to 1220 metres where the average temperature of the water is 4-6 C. Research shows that there is a higher percentage of female crabs which live in the shallower water (300-400m) and a higher percentage of male crabs which live in the deeper water (800-900m). At water depths in between there is an even distribution of males and females.

Like all crabs, the crystal crab is a decapod, which means it has 10 legs. Crabs are scavengers, which means they feed on dead animals and plant material. The crystal crabs (sometimes called snow crabs) are large, slow growing, white crabs, which can grow to have a carapace (shell) length of 17cm for the males and 15cm for the females and weigh between 1.8 to 2 kg each. As they grow from juveniles to adults, they moult their carapace to form a larger one. It takes a male crab 13-15 years to mature and they may live up to 30 years of age!

As the crystal crabs are found so deep in the ocean, they live in a very stable environment where the temperature does not change. This means that they do not have a set time of the year when they breed. “Berried” is the term used to describe a female who is carrying eggs or young underneath her body.

Interesting Facts/Status:
The crystal crab found in WA was originally thought to be the same species as a related crab (C. bicolor) found off the eastern states coast. As of 2007 it has been confirmed that the crystal crab found off the coast of WA is a different species and is endemic to WA.

Crystal crabs have been commercially fished since 1997. About 150-160 tonnes per year are fished commercially off the southwest coast of WA.

The crystal crab is considered one of the best tasting crab around the world because it grows and lives in such an unpolluted and stable environment.





Crystal crab catch
Photo courtesy Noel Chambers

Crystal crab
Photo courtesy Noel Chambers

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