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Pugettia producta

(Kelp Crab)


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Common Names

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Common Names in English:

Kelp Crab, Northern Kelp Crab, Shield-Backed Kelp Crab


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Family Majidae

With a prominent rostrum that is divided into 2 processes (these may be partly or wholly fused).

Physical Description

Species Pugettia producta

This majid crab can grow fairly large. Its rostrum consists of two flattened processes. The carapace is longer than wide. It has a sharp lateral projection at or behind the middle .The dorsal carapace surface is almost smooth . The distance between the eyes is less than about 1/3 the carapace width. Color greenish brown to maroon dorsally , reddish or yellowish ventrally. Young crabs are brown, red, or olive green. Carapace width to 9.3 cm in males and 7.8 cm in females. (Ref. 109953)

This species cannot osmoregulate so it cannot tolerate diluted seawater. The species has a terminal molt , after which the carapace may become partly overgrown with barnacles, etc.

The long legs and claws of these crabs are dextrous and they can cling tenaciously and pinch hard.[1]


Mostly in kelp beds , either on the bottom or climbing in the kelp. Also common on pilings. Juveniles may be in tidepools or around surfgrass or Fucus.[1]

Typically found in the intertidal zone at the water's edge at a mean distance from sea level of 161.60 meters (530.18 feet).[2]

Biome: Coastal.


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This crab eats algae such as Fucus, Macrocystis, Nereocystis, Sargassum, Egregia, Pterygophora, and red algae. Where algae is scarce they may eat barnacles, mussels, hydroids , and bryozoans .[1]


In the fall adults migrate to deeper water where they congregate , feed , and mate. Females may be carrying eggs during most seasons of the year. In southern Puget Sound females could not be found during May, September, and October. Clutch size ranges from 34,000 to 84,000 eggs. Freshly extruded eggs are bright orange, maturing to red, and to grayish-purple at hatching . Embryonic development may require nearly a year.[1]


This species does not decorate itself as much as some other majid crabs do. It does have two rows of hooked setae just behind its rostrum, to which it sometimes attaches algae, etc. The items it attaches may be mainly food, which it detaches and eats later.[1]


Predators include staghorn sculpins , gulls, cabezon, and sea otter . Velella velella, the by-the-wind sailor, will readily capture and eat the pelagic larvae (zoeae).[1]


The species is sometimes parasitized by the rhizocephalan sacculinid barnacle Heterosaccus californicus, which causes the crabs to be sluggish and to have a brownish mass (the reproductive parts of the barnacle) protruding from under the abdomen. The crab molts only once after being parasitized, and during that molt the barnacle's reproductive sac pushes out through the surface. The crab's gonads are damaged or destroyed and males exhibit some female-like characteristics such as a broad abdomen and small claws . He may even become a hermaphrodite and produce eggs as well as sperm . Females seem less affected other than speeding up the development of mature female characteristics. [1]


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Epialtus productusPugettia productus


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Last scrutiny: 02-Feb-2005

Similar Species

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Pugettia gracilis does not grow as large, and its dorsal carapace is rough. Scyra acutifrons has a rounder, rougher carapace. The carapace of Hyas lyratus is wider in front, and is also rougher. Cancer productus is a cancer crab (and has a round carapace and no rostrum) (Ref. 109953)

Members of the genus Pugettia

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 5 species and subspecies in this genus:

P. dalli (Spined Kelp Crab) · P. gracilis (Graceful Kelp Crab) · P. producta (Kelp Crab) · P. richii (Cryptic Kelp Crab) · P. venetiae (Venice Kelp Crab)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal March 05, 2008:



  1. Cowles, Dave. Key to Invertebrates Found At or Near The Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory (a campus of Walla Walla University) Fidalgo Island, Anacortes, WA May 2009. [back]
  2. Standard Deviation = 229.960 based on 42 observations. Terrestrial altitude and ocean depth information for each observation from British Oceanographic Data Centre. [back]
Last Revised: 2/1/2015