Key West Stone Crab

Stone crabs aren't just a delicious meal that tourists can grab on their Florida vacation. They are also one of the many fascinating aquatic animals swimmers can view in the wild when on a Key West dive. Though there are a couple different species that can be found in the warm waters near Florida, in Key West the Florida Stone Crab will be spotted the most often. The Gulf Stone Crab and the regally named King Crab are two other sub-species of crab. The King Crab in particular can be found all over the world. Though they should only be harvested from mid-October through mid-May, they can be admired year round. Divers will never see these little ocean dwellers in the same way after viewing them in their native environment.

Stone Crab Appearance

Depending on the specie, stone crabs can vary somewhat in size. King crabs are the largest at up to a foot and a half, with the Gulf stone crab coming in significantly smaller on average. Females are also usually a bit bigger, but males tend to have larger claws. Males and females are also shaped slightly differently, with male stone crabs displaying a longer torso and females tending instead to be wider.

Stone crabs are covered in a hard shell that has spikes and ridges erupting from it. Their overall color is a deep orange or red on top, with a paler shade underneath them. They have one claw that is dramatically larger than the other, which can grow back after being harvested. The claws are black at the tips.

Stone Crab Eating Habits

Their diet varies greatly depending on their age and health. Larval stone crabs and juveniles naturally eat much smaller prey, such as plankton or other easy to hunt sea animals. Adult stone crabs eat oysters, mussels, other species of crab, and even some seaweed. However, if an adult crab loses its ability to fight or hunt by losing its claw to fishermen or another predator, it may revert back to eating easier prey or to scavenging behavior.

Stone Crab Habitats

The Florida Stone Crab is actually somewhat deceptively named, as it is found all along the west coast of the United States up to the Carolinas, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Central American coastline. Gulf Stone Crabs are found more often in the Gulf of Mexico area, as their name would indicate, and King Crabs instead have a much wider geographical range and can be found in much colder climates, including Alaska and Canada.

Though Florida and Gulf Crabs are found mainly in the western Atlantic ocean, they are sometimes also seen further inland in salt marshes or other hospitable environments. Oyster reefs, seagrass beds, coral reefs and other generally rocky coastal environments that provide shelter and cover are favorite spots for this shy creature.