Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

Flower Crab

The Flower Crab (Portunus pelagicus), also known as the Blue Crab, Blue Swimmer Crab, Blue Manna Crab or Sand Crab, is a large crab found in the intertidal estuaries of the Indian and Pacific Oceans (Asian coasts) and the Middle-Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The name “flower crab” is used in east Asian countries while the latter names are used in Australia. The crabs are widely distributed in eastern Africa, Southeast Asia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

The Flower Crab is not strictly marine as it commonly enters estuaries for food and shelter. Furthermore, its life cycle is dependent on estuaries as the larvae and early juveniles use these habitats for growth and development. Prior to hatching, the female moves into shallow marine habitats, releases her eggs and the newly hatched larvae move into estuaries.

Once the larvae forms into the crab stage they continue to spend time in estuaries which provides a suitable habitat for shelter and food. However, evidence has shown that early juveniles cannot tolerate low salinities for extended periods, which is likely due to its weak hyper-osmoregulatory abilities. This may explain their mass emigration from estuaries to seawater during the rainy season.

They stay buried under sand or mud most of the time, particularly during the daytime and winter. They come out to feed during high tide on various organisms such as bivalves, fish and, to a lesser extent, macroalgae. They are excellent swimmers, largely due to a pair of flattened legs that resemble paddles. However, in contrast to another portunid crab (Scylla serrata), they cannot survive for long periods out of the water.

Flower Crab