Zoom August 2011

Callinectes sapidus, “beautiful swimmer—tasty.” While it may not be conventional beauty, it has whetted the appetite of and been caught by many a Long Islander. It is a blue crab, or blue claw crab. The blue crab is native to the Atlantic Ocean coast south of Cape Cod all the way to Argentina. Interestingly enough, as an arthropod, crabs are directly related to insects and arachnids. Yes foodies, the crab is a bug. But it is a bug with a long, long history, far longer than humans. The oldest fossil evidence dates to the Carboniferous period, between 359 and 299 million years ago. And they’ve stuck around ever since. Around the two year mark of their roughly three-year lifespan, blue crabs mate for the first and only time. The female and male hang out until she molts (shedding an old shell so a new, larger shell can take its place). While the new shell is soft, they mate, gonopods (male genitals) to gonopores (female genitals). They part and 2-9 months later, after hibernation, an average of 2 million fertilized eggs are extruded onto her abdomen into a mass called a “sponge.” In a little more than a year and 18-20 molts later, the crab is an adult. Adult blue crabs can grow up to 9 inches wide at the widest point of their carapace (main body section) and have an appetite for pretty much anything that they scuttle upon at water’s bottom. But before you go crabbing, check health.ny.gov for contaminated water advisories, just to be safe.

michael isenbek

Michael Isenbek, Associate Editor, dabbles in both fiction and nonfiction writing, coordinates the Pulse event listings and writes the text for "Zoom," among other editorial tasks. He has a Master's Degree in Liberal Studies and a Bachelor's Degree in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Journalism from SUNY Empire State College.