Thursday, January 24, 2013

Atlantic Blue Crab

Atlantic Blue Crab | The Chesapeake and Atlantic blue crab is a crustacean found in the waters of the western Atlantic, the Pacific coast of Central America and the Gulf of Mexico. Its Latin name, Callinectes sapidus (from the Greek calli = "beautiful", nectes = "swimmer", and Latin sapidus = "savory"). On the Pacific coast of Central America, Atlantic blue crab was largely ignored as a source of food and choosing the meat is considered too difficult. It is the Maryland state crustacean and the subject of an extensive fishery.

Scientific classification
Kingdom:     Animalia
Phylum:     Arthropoda
Subphylum:     Crustacea
Class:     Malacostraca
Order:     Decapoda
Infraorder:     Brachyura
Family:     Portunidae
Genus:     Callinectes
Species:     C. sapidus

The immature female Atlantic blue crab has a triangular-shaped abdomen that is well sealed against the body. The adult female abdomen is rounded and can be easily pulled from the body after the last molt. Male blue crabs (called Jimmy crabs) have brilliant blue claws and legs. Older women (sooks) can be distinguished by the bright orange tips on their claws. Males tend to be larger than females, sometimes 7 or 8 inches from shell point to point. Male blue crabs are reported to grow as big as 10 inches.

Breeding female Atlantic blue crabs carry fertilized eggs under their abdomen. The egg mass resembles a sponge, hence the term "sponge" crabs. It takes about two weeks for the eggs to mature and be released into the water to hatch. Atlantic blue crab eat small fish, oysters, mussels, snails, shrimp, worms and other crabs. They sometimes burrow into the ground with only their eyes visible stems, in wait for prey. Blue crabs are opportunistic in nature, eating whatever is available. The natural enemies of the blue crab include eels, drum, striped bass, spot, trout, some sharks, cownose rays and people.
Commercial Atlantic blue crab harvesters usually bait crab traps with oily fish, which seem to work better than other baits. Atlantic blue crabs are thought to detect and locate the source of fish oil for long distances. An important area for harvest blue crabs in North America, the Chesapeake Bay. In the Chesapeake Bay communities, they are called "Maryland crab", "hard crabs" or simply "crabs". Other crab harvests from the Delaware Bay, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and to a lesser extent, the Gulf Coast states.
Atlantic blue crab is drawn into the hard shell or soft shell forms. Hard crabs are often boiled whole and served still in their shells. The hard shell is cracked by hand or using the nut crackers. Once the shell is broken, almost the totality of the crab meat consumed. The meat in the body of the crab is thick and whitish in color, while the pieces of the legs are smaller and flakier. Meat from the two large claws is solid and more plentiful than meat found in the lower legs. Soft shell crabs are prepared in a different way, these preparations began immediately after the crabs caught. Soft shell crabs are just new melted. Crabbers will inspect their freshly caught crabs to determine which are about to molt. Those who are about ready separated from the rest of the crabs and kept in shallow tanks with running water until they molt. These crabs are worth more than the market hard shell crabs, and after cooking the entire crab, shell and all, can be consumed.

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