Green crab

Feb 03, 2015, 7:00AM EST
Green crab
Among the world’s worst invasive species

 The green crab (Carcinus maenas) is a crab common to littoral marine waters of the northeast Atlantic coast and the Baltic Sea.  A related species (Carcinus aestuarii) can be found in the Mediterranean Sea.  The adult carapace of the green crab is about 3.5 inches wide.  It feeds on a variety of mollusks, worms, and small crustaceans.  While generally green in color, it can also exhibit brown, gray, or red.  The species was first documented on the Atlantic coast of North America when found in Massachusetts in 1817.  Its range there now extends from Newfoundland to South Carolina.  Identified in San Francisco Bay in 1989, it now extends from British Columbia to Southern California.  Reported in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, in the late 1800s, it now is found in New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania.  First found in Cape Town in 1983, it now extends along much of the coast of South Africa.  Individual green crabs have been found in other waters, including those of Brazil, Panama, Hawaii, and Madagascar, but it has yet to be invasive there.  Green crabs live in a wide variety of marine habitats and it can tolerate a range of salinities and temperatures.  It disperses to new habitats by attaching itself to ships’ hulls, infesting exported seaweed, riding with other species in aquaculture, and rafting, as well as the distribution of crab larvae by ocean currents.  Females can produce well over 100,000 eggs each season.  Because of their rapid reproduction, multiple habitats, and unspecialized diet, green crabs are crowding out other species in waters to which they have been introduced.  To date, control measures have not been particularly effective.  A small commercial fishery for green crabs exists in France and the United Kingdom, but has had limited development elsewhere.

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