|Red rock crab juvenile, Cancer productus|
I pick up loosely closed clamshells, especially those loaded with barnacles. Almost every one is serving as shelter for young critters. This one held the crab, three small stars, and a scale worm. Look for the worm in the hinge, above, one of the stars in the background, below.
The poor crab didn't know how to deal with sunlight and a giant black eye staring at it. First he tried cowering, then ...
|... the challenge. "I'm big and brave and I'll pinch you!"|
|"Or maybe not. If I roll over and fold up, maybe the giant won't see me."|
All these poses took less than a minute. Then I closed the clamshell and put it back down under the eelgrass.
The stripy carapace will be discarded as he grows; as an adult, he will be mostly a dark red. The underside, however, will still have those red spots on white.
Most of the young crabs I've been seeing are the Dungeness crabs, Cancer magister.
|Two-inch crab, running, under knee-deep water.|
The two crabs are cousins, but the differences are fairly obvious. The Dungeness has a smoother carapace, rougher, toothed, pincer arms, and prominent teeth along the edge of the carapace. The Red Rock crab's carapace is bumpy, but his pincer arms are missing the teeth. The teeth on the edge of the carapace are wavy, and fluted like a pie crust.
The Dungeness gets quite a bit bigger; up to 11 inches across the top. The Red Rock will grow to 8 inches.
At every low tide this time of year, the crabbers are out with buckets and nets and crab traps, wading out waist-deep with the traps, or tramping through shallower water with long-stemmed nets. It's the big Dungeness that they're after; sometimes size is a disadvantage.