King crabs, also called stone crabs, are a family of crab-like decapod crustaceans chiefly found in cold seas. Because of their large size and the taste of their flesh, many species are widely caught and sold as food.
King crabs are generally believed to be derived from hermit crab ancestors, which may explain the asymmetry still found in the adult forms. Although some doubt still exists about this theory, king crabs are the most widely quoted example of carcinisation (shellification/crustification) among the Decapoda (familiar crustaceans). The evidence for this explanation comes from the asymmetry of the king crab's abdomen, which is thought to reflect the asymmetry of hermit crabs, which must fit into a spiral shell.
Around 40 species are known , in 14 genera:
- Acantholithodes Holmes, 1895
- Acantholithodes hispidus (Stimpson, 1860)
- Cryptolithodes Brandt, 1848
- Dermaturus Brandt, 1850
- Dermaturus mandtii Brandt, 1850 — wrinkled crab
- Glyptolithodes Faxon, 1895
- Glyptolithodes cristatipes (Faxon, 1893)
- Hapalogaster Brandt, 1850
- Lithodes Latreille, 1806
- Lopholithodes Brandt, 1848
- Neolithodes A. Milne-Edwards & Bouvier, 1894
- Oedignathus Benedict, 1895
- Oedignathus inermis (Stimpson, 1860) — granular claw crab
- Paralithodes Brandt, 1848
- Paralomis White, 1856
- Paralomis bouvieri Hansen, 1908
- Paralomis cubensis Chace, 1939
- Paralomis haigae Eldredge, 1976
- Paralomis longipes Faxon, 1893
- Paralomis manningi A. B. Williams, C. R. Smith & Baco, 2000
- Paralomis multispina (J. E. Benedict, 1895)
- Paralomis pacifica Sakai, 1978
- Paralomis seagranti Eldredge, 1976
- Paralomis verrilli (J. E. Benedict, 1895)
- Phyllolithodes Brandt, 1848
- Phyllolithodes papillosus Brandt, 1848 — flatspine triangle crab, heart crab
- Placetron Schalfeew, 1892
- Placetron wosnessenskii Schalfeew, 1892 — scaled crab
- Rhinolithodes Brandt, 1848
- Rhinolithodes wosnessenskii Brandt, 1848 — rhinoceros crab
is found chiefly in the Southern Hemisphere
, but extending as far north as California
, although all its closest relatives live in the Northern Hemisphere
. Its single species, G. cristatipes
was originally placed in the genus Rhinolithodes
The golden king crab
, Lithodes aequispinus
, is caught in the Aleutian Chain
off the coast of Alaska. The golden king crab is significantly smaller than the red and blue king crabs, averaging 5–8 lb
). It tastes similar to the red and blue king crabs, though perhaps somewhat sweeter. They are considerably cheaper due to their appearance and size.
Significant populations occur in pockets in the waters off the Pribilof and Shumagin Islands, Shelikof Strait, Prince William Sound and at least as far south as lower Chatham Strait in the south-east, where a regular commercial fishery occurs annually.It should be noted they occur in deeper water than the red king crab, often in depths exceeding 300 fathoms (1800 feet).
The scarlet king crab
, Lithodes couesi
, is not often fished due to its small size and insufficient population to support commercial harvesting.
occurs in the North Atlantic
, including Northern Europe
east coast. It is not abundant enough to support commercial fishery, and is becoming rare in some areas.
, the only species in the genus Oedignathus
, is found on the west coast of North America
and separately around the coasts of Japan
. Its claws and walking legs are covered in numerous tubercles
rather than setae
or spines, which distinguishes it from other genera.
The red king crab
, Paralithodes camtschaticus
, is a very large species, sometimes reaching a carapace width of 11 in
) and a leg span of 6 ft
). Its natural range is the Bering Sea
, between the Aleutian Islands
and St. Lawrence Island
. It can now also be found in the Barents Sea
and the European Arctic
, where it was intentionally introduced and is now becoming a pest.
The blue king crab
, Paralithodes platypus
, lives near St. Matthew Island
and the Pribilof Islands
, Alaska, and is the largest of all the king crabs, sometimes exceeding 18 lb
) in weight. The blue king crab is often sold as the coveted red king crab because it resembles and tastes similar to red king crab when cooked. Both the St. Matthew and Pribilof blue king crab stocks are classified as overfished
and no longer support commercial fisheries.