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Blue Crab Research at SERC

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The blue crab is a famous resident of the Chesapeake Bay. If you travel to the Bay region, it is hard to overlook the many restaurants that offer crab cakes or other tasty dishes made of crab. And not only famous, the blue crab is also very important, as a economic resource in the Chesapeake Bay area, and as a key player in the food web of the Chesapeake Bay.

But how much do we really know about the blue crab other than the way it looks on our dinner plate? Where are the blue crabs right now? How fast do they grow, how old do they get? Explore this online resource to learn more about the blue crab (but please read our copyright statement).

What's in a name?

Is a blue crab really blue? Well actually.all adult blue crabs are dark green on top and white underneath. So what's the story with the blue? Blue crabs are called blue because of the striking deep blue coloring that the male crabs have on the top of their largest claw. Females don't have this blue, but instead show red tips at the end of their claws.

The scientific name of the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, is actually a more accurate description for both males and females. Callinectes, means beautiful swimmer, and the blue crab is indeed a good swimmer. Blue crabs belong to the family Portunidae and one thing that separates crabs in this family from other crabs is that the portunids all have a special pair of swimming legs.

Sapidus, finally, means tasty or savory. So, the scientific name of the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, means a "beautiful swimmer that tastes good." Not a bad name for this tasty swimmer.

This is the classification of the blue crab:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Crustacea
  • Order: Decapoda
  • Family: Portunidae
  • Genus: Callinectes
  • Species: Sapidus


Using the images on this website...

"Fair Use" of the photos is permitted, which means that you can use the photos for your own personal or non-commercial educational purposes, provided that you credit the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and the photographer (if given) in the text or caption associated with the photo. (Photographer names are listed with the thumbnails.) Commercial use of these photos is restricted. You will need to obtain permission from SERC to use any images in publications, books, articles, newsletters, or journals. For complete copyright information, read the Smithsonian copyright terms and conditions.