Overview

Comprehensive Description

Menippe mercenaria, a member of the family Xanthidae, is the largest xanthid species in its region (Williams 1984). The Florida stone crab has a large crusher claw with an enlarged basal tooth. The smaller pincer claw has many small teeth that can be used for cutting (Simonson 1985). The adults appear dark brownish-red in color or less mottled with dusky grey spots. The walking legs are reddish with yellow bands. Juvenile appear dark purplish-blue and have a white spot on the carpus when they are very young (Williams 1984).
  • Brown SD and TM Bert. 1993. The effects of temperature and salinity on molting and survival of Menippe adina and Menippe mercenaria (Crustacea, Decapoda) postsettlement juveniles. Marine Ecology Progress Series 99:41-49.
  • Cheug TS. 1969. The environmental and hormonal control of growth and reproduction in the adult female stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say). Biological Bulletin 136:327-346.
  • Hughes ARR and JH Grabowski. 2006. Habitat context influences predator interference interactions and the strength of resource partitioning. Oecologia 149: 256-264.
  • Lindberg WJ, Frazer TK, and GR Stanton. 1990. Population effects of refuge dispersion for adult stone crabs (Xanthid, Menippe). Marine Ecology Progress Series 66:239-249.
  • Mootz CA and CE Epifanio. 1974. An energy budget forMenippe mercenaria larvae fed Artemia nauplii. Biological Bulletin 146:44-55.
  • Ong K-S and JD Costlow. 1970. The effect of salinity and temperature on the larval development of the stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say), reared in the laboratory. Chesapeake Science 11:16-29.
  • Porter HJ. 1960. Zoeal stages of the stone crab, Menippe mercenaria Say. Chesapeake Science 1:168-177.
  • Simonson JL. 1985. Reversal of handedness, growth, and claw stridulatory patterns in the stone crab Menippe mercenaria (Say) (Crustacea: Xanthidae). Journal of Crusteacean Biology 5:281-293.
  • Sullivan JR. 1979. The stone crab, Mennipe mercenaria, in the southwest Florida fishery. Florida Marine Research Publications, Number 36. Florida Department of Natural Resources. pgs. 1-23
  • Wilber DH. 1989. Reproductive biology and distribution of stone crabs (Xanthidae, Menippe) in the hybrid zone on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series 52:235-244.
  • Williams AB. 1984. Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs of the Atlantic Coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C. pg. 420-424.
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Distribution

Geographic Range

The stone crab, Menippe mercenaria, can be found just below the low tide line from the Atlanic coast of North Carolina to the Gulf coast of Florida.

Biogeographic Regions: atlantic ocean (Native )

  • Beck, M. April 95. Size-Specific Shelter Limitation in Stone Crabs: A Test of the Demographic Bottleneck Hypothesis. Ecology, 76(3): 968-980.
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Menippe mercenaria occurs on the east coast of the United States from North Carolina to Florida, in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico, and throughout the Caribbean to the Yucatan (Ong and Costlow 1970, Wilber 1989, Brown and Bert 1993). It occurs from 0-60 m and is usually found in the subtidal. The Florida stone crab lives in burrows in seagrass beds, oyster reefs and in crevices in rocks (Lindberg et al. 1990, Brown and Bert 1993). The Florida stone crab is not common in the Indian River Lagoon (Boudreax et al. 2006).
  • Brown SD and TM Bert. 1993. The effects of temperature and salinity on molting and survival of Menippe adina and Menippe mercenaria (Crustacea, Decapoda) postsettlement juveniles. Marine Ecology Progress Series 99:41-49.
  • Cheug TS. 1969. The environmental and hormonal control of growth and reproduction in the adult female stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say). Biological Bulletin 136:327-346.
  • Hughes ARR and JH Grabowski. 2006. Habitat context influences predator interference interactions and the strength of resource partitioning. Oecologia 149: 256-264.
  • Lindberg WJ, Frazer TK, and GR Stanton. 1990. Population effects of refuge dispersion for adult stone crabs (Xanthid, Menippe). Marine Ecology Progress Series 66:239-249.
  • Mootz CA and CE Epifanio. 1974. An energy budget forMenippe mercenaria larvae fed Artemia nauplii. Biological Bulletin 146:44-55.
  • Ong K-S and JD Costlow. 1970. The effect of salinity and temperature on the larval development of the stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say), reared in the laboratory. Chesapeake Science 11:16-29.
  • Porter HJ. 1960. Zoeal stages of the stone crab, Menippe mercenaria Say. Chesapeake Science 1:168-177.
  • Simonson JL. 1985. Reversal of handedness, growth, and claw stridulatory patterns in the stone crab Menippe mercenaria (Say) (Crustacea: Xanthidae). Journal of Crusteacean Biology 5:281-293.
  • Sullivan JR. 1979. The stone crab, Mennipe mercenaria, in the southwest Florida fishery. Florida Marine Research Publications, Number 36. Florida Department of Natural Resources. pgs. 1-23
  • Wilber DH. 1989. Reproductive biology and distribution of stone crabs (Xanthidae, Menippe) in the hybrid zone on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series 52:235-244.
  • Williams AB. 1984. Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs of the Atlantic Coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C. pg. 420-424.
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Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Stone crabs have exoskeletons and have a brown and black speckled carapace that is oval, smooth, and convex. The carapace averages 130 mm across in adult females and 145 mm across in adult males. Adult Florida stone crabs have a trunk composed of 14 segments, and 5 pairs of stout walking legs, which have reddish and yellow bands and distal hairs. The first eight segments compose the thorax, and the remaining six segments compose the abdomen. The first set of walking legs develop into an asymmetrical pair of heavy chelipeds that typically make-up 60% of the animal's entire body weight and possess a crushing pressure of 14,000 pounds per square inch.

Juveniles are a dark purplish blue. Younger juveniles have a white spot on the carpus, which is the middle segment of the endopod, or limb.

Average length: 0.079 m.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

  • Raichlen, S. 2000. The Perfect Crab: It's all claw. NY Times, 51258: F1, F8.
  • Rupport, E., R. Barnes. 1994. Invertebrate Zoology 6th edition. USA: Sanders College Publishing.
  • Wu, C. 1997. Crab Crackers. Science News, 151(8): 122.
  • Williams, A. 1984. Shrimps, lobsters, and crabs of the Atlantic coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution.
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Size

Menippe mercenaria is the largest xanthid species. The males measure 91 mm in length and 129 mm in width. Females are smaller, measuring 79mm in length and 116 mm in width (Williams 1984). Females Florida stone crabs usually spawn at approximately 2 years of age when the carapace measures 2.25-2.75 cm.
  • Brown SD and TM Bert. 1993. The effects of temperature and salinity on molting and survival of Menippe adina and Menippe mercenaria (Crustacea, Decapoda) postsettlement juveniles. Marine Ecology Progress Series 99:41-49.
  • Cheug TS. 1969. The environmental and hormonal control of growth and reproduction in the adult female stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say). Biological Bulletin 136:327-346.
  • Hughes ARR and JH Grabowski. 2006. Habitat context influences predator interference interactions and the strength of resource partitioning. Oecologia 149: 256-264.
  • Lindberg WJ, Frazer TK, and GR Stanton. 1990. Population effects of refuge dispersion for adult stone crabs (Xanthid, Menippe). Marine Ecology Progress Series 66:239-249.
  • Mootz CA and CE Epifanio. 1974. An energy budget forMenippe mercenaria larvae fed Artemia nauplii. Biological Bulletin 146:44-55.
  • Ong K-S and JD Costlow. 1970. The effect of salinity and temperature on the larval development of the stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say), reared in the laboratory. Chesapeake Science 11:16-29.
  • Porter HJ. 1960. Zoeal stages of the stone crab, Menippe mercenaria Say. Chesapeake Science 1:168-177.
  • Simonson JL. 1985. Reversal of handedness, growth, and claw stridulatory patterns in the stone crab Menippe mercenaria (Say) (Crustacea: Xanthidae). Journal of Crusteacean Biology 5:281-293.
  • Sullivan JR. 1979. The stone crab, Mennipe mercenaria, in the southwest Florida fishery. Florida Marine Research Publications, Number 36. Florida Department of Natural Resources. pgs. 1-23
  • Wilber DH. 1989. Reproductive biology and distribution of stone crabs (Xanthidae, Menippe) in the hybrid zone on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series 52:235-244.
  • Williams AB. 1984. Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs of the Atlantic Coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C. pg. 420-424.
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Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

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Ecology

Habitat

Adult Menippe mercenaria generally inhabit sub-tidal regions; they burrow under emergent hard substrate or in seagrass beds. Juvenile stone crabs are found nearshore in marine waters on seagrass beds, or around emergent live rocks in highly dense populations. Some juveniles have been caught in deep channels near the Florida coast. The stone crab larvae travel with the zooplankton, upon which they feed, in nearshore marine environments.

Range depth: <1 to 70 m.

Habitat Regions: saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: coastal

Other Habitat Features: intertidal or littoral

  • Bert, T., J. Stevely. 1999. Population Characteristics of the stone crab, *Menippe mercenaria*, in Florida Bay and the Florida Keys. Marine Science, 44(1): 515.
  • Gulf Shores Marine Fisheries Commission, 2001. "Summary table of the Stone Crab, *Menippe mercenaria*,: Life History for the Gulf of Mexico" (On-line). Accessed 11/04/04 at http://www.gsmfc.org/pubs/habitat/tables/stonecrab.pdf.
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Depth range based on 221 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 53 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 17
  Temperature range (°C): 23.636 - 25.874
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.289 - 0.468
  Salinity (PPS): 35.556 - 36.038
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.671 - 4.855
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.106 - 0.132
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 1.653

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 17

Temperature range (°C): 23.636 - 25.874

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.289 - 0.468

Salinity (PPS): 35.556 - 36.038

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.671 - 4.855

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.106 - 0.132

Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 1.653
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

As Menippe mercenaria grows and develops, its food habits change. The larvae and pre-juvenile stone crabs are opportunistic carnivores that feed on smaller zooplankton. The juvenile and adult stone crabs are still opportunistic carnivores, but feed on animals that are larger than the zooplankton. Utilizing their massive and powerful claws, adult stone crabs feed on acorn barnacles, hard shelled clams, scallops, and conch.

Animal Foods: mollusks; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans; echinoderms; other marine invertebrates; zooplankton

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods, Molluscivore ); planktivore

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Menippe mercenaria larvae are planktotrophic and can be reared in the laboratory on brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii) (Porter 1960). Adults use their large crushing claw to forage for bivalves such as hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria) and ribbed mussels (Geukensia demissa) (Hughes and Grabowski 2006).
  • Brown SD and TM Bert. 1993. The effects of temperature and salinity on molting and survival of Menippe adina and Menippe mercenaria (Crustacea, Decapoda) postsettlement juveniles. Marine Ecology Progress Series 99:41-49.
  • Cheug TS. 1969. The environmental and hormonal control of growth and reproduction in the adult female stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say). Biological Bulletin 136:327-346.
  • Hughes ARR and JH Grabowski. 2006. Habitat context influences predator interference interactions and the strength of resource partitioning. Oecologia 149: 256-264.
  • Lindberg WJ, Frazer TK, and GR Stanton. 1990. Population effects of refuge dispersion for adult stone crabs (Xanthid, Menippe). Marine Ecology Progress Series 66:239-249.
  • Mootz CA and CE Epifanio. 1974. An energy budget forMenippe mercenaria larvae fed Artemia nauplii. Biological Bulletin 146:44-55.
  • Ong K-S and JD Costlow. 1970. The effect of salinity and temperature on the larval development of the stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say), reared in the laboratory. Chesapeake Science 11:16-29.
  • Porter HJ. 1960. Zoeal stages of the stone crab, Menippe mercenaria Say. Chesapeake Science 1:168-177.
  • Simonson JL. 1985. Reversal of handedness, growth, and claw stridulatory patterns in the stone crab Menippe mercenaria (Say) (Crustacea: Xanthidae). Journal of Crusteacean Biology 5:281-293.
  • Sullivan JR. 1979. The stone crab, Mennipe mercenaria, in the southwest Florida fishery. Florida Marine Research Publications, Number 36. Florida Department of Natural Resources. pgs. 1-23
  • Wilber DH. 1989. Reproductive biology and distribution of stone crabs (Xanthidae, Menippe) in the hybrid zone on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series 52:235-244.
  • Williams AB. 1984. Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs of the Atlantic Coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C. pg. 420-424.
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Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

The larvae of the stone crab contribute to the nearshore zooplankton population that is critical to feeding larger fish. Federal law protects the stone crab from over-harvesting by man, and there has not been a reported disturbance in the nearshore marine ecosystem since this law was enacted.

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Predation

The most obvious anti-predator adaptation is the development of massive chelipeds that are capable of exerting 14,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. These claws keep the number of adult stone crab predators to a minimum. The general consensus among experts in the study of Menippe mercenaria believe the low number of natural predators is probably due to the hard exoskeleton of the stone crab, which allows it to survive long enough to pinch and gash the predator's gastrointestinal lining. One species that seems completely unconcerned with the massive chelipeds of the stone crab is the octopus, which is the primary natural predator of the stone crab. Juvenile stone crabs are also depredated by large fish.

Known Predators:

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Menippe mercenaria has no known species associations.
  • Brown SD and TM Bert. 1993. The effects of temperature and salinity on molting and survival of Menippe adina and Menippe mercenaria (Crustacea, Decapoda) postsettlement juveniles. Marine Ecology Progress Series 99:41-49.
  • Cheug TS. 1969. The environmental and hormonal control of growth and reproduction in the adult female stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say). Biological Bulletin 136:327-346.
  • Hughes ARR and JH Grabowski. 2006. Habitat context influences predator interference interactions and the strength of resource partitioning. Oecologia 149: 256-264.
  • Lindberg WJ, Frazer TK, and GR Stanton. 1990. Population effects of refuge dispersion for adult stone crabs (Xanthid, Menippe). Marine Ecology Progress Series 66:239-249.
  • Mootz CA and CE Epifanio. 1974. An energy budget forMenippe mercenaria larvae fed Artemia nauplii. Biological Bulletin 146:44-55.
  • Ong K-S and JD Costlow. 1970. The effect of salinity and temperature on the larval development of the stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say), reared in the laboratory. Chesapeake Science 11:16-29.
  • Porter HJ. 1960. Zoeal stages of the stone crab, Menippe mercenaria Say. Chesapeake Science 1:168-177.
  • Simonson JL. 1985. Reversal of handedness, growth, and claw stridulatory patterns in the stone crab Menippe mercenaria (Say) (Crustacea: Xanthidae). Journal of Crusteacean Biology 5:281-293.
  • Sullivan JR. 1979. The stone crab, Mennipe mercenaria, in the southwest Florida fishery. Florida Marine Research Publications, Number 36. Florida Department of Natural Resources. pgs. 1-23
  • Wilber DH. 1989. Reproductive biology and distribution of stone crabs (Xanthidae, Menippe) in the hybrid zone on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series 52:235-244.
  • Williams AB. 1984. Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs of the Atlantic Coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C. pg. 420-424.
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Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

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Population Biology

When present in an estuary system, the Florida stone crab can occur in large densities (Lindberg et al. 1990). Regeneration: Menippe mercenaria has the ability to regenerate claws that are removed as a defense mechanism or by other means including harvesting for human consumption. Observations of the Florida stone crab indicate that these crabs are initially right handed. During regeneration there is usually a reversal of handedness in the crab where the pincer claw differentiates into a crusher claw and the removed claw is replaced by a new pincer claw. In an adult crab the pincer claw is replaced by a crusher claw within three molts. Juveniles readily replace the crusher in one molt. Some individuals of Menippe mercenaria are reported to regenerate two claws o ³70 mm in length in as little as 6 months (Simonson 1985).
  • Brown SD and TM Bert. 1993. The effects of temperature and salinity on molting and survival of Menippe adina and Menippe mercenaria (Crustacea, Decapoda) postsettlement juveniles. Marine Ecology Progress Series 99:41-49.
  • Cheug TS. 1969. The environmental and hormonal control of growth and reproduction in the adult female stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say). Biological Bulletin 136:327-346.
  • Hughes ARR and JH Grabowski. 2006. Habitat context influences predator interference interactions and the strength of resource partitioning. Oecologia 149: 256-264.
  • Lindberg WJ, Frazer TK, and GR Stanton. 1990. Population effects of refuge dispersion for adult stone crabs (Xanthid, Menippe). Marine Ecology Progress Series 66:239-249.
  • Mootz CA and CE Epifanio. 1974. An energy budget forMenippe mercenaria larvae fed Artemia nauplii. Biological Bulletin 146:44-55.
  • Ong K-S and JD Costlow. 1970. The effect of salinity and temperature on the larval development of the stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say), reared in the laboratory. Chesapeake Science 11:16-29.
  • Porter HJ. 1960. Zoeal stages of the stone crab, Menippe mercenaria Say. Chesapeake Science 1:168-177.
  • Simonson JL. 1985. Reversal of handedness, growth, and claw stridulatory patterns in the stone crab Menippe mercenaria (Say) (Crustacea: Xanthidae). Journal of Crusteacean Biology 5:281-293.
  • Sullivan JR. 1979. The stone crab, Mennipe mercenaria, in the southwest Florida fishery. Florida Marine Research Publications, Number 36. Florida Department of Natural Resources. pgs. 1-23
  • Wilber DH. 1989. Reproductive biology and distribution of stone crabs (Xanthidae, Menippe) in the hybrid zone on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series 52:235-244.
  • Williams AB. 1984. Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs of the Atlantic Coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C. pg. 420-424.
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Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

The stone crab's primary method of communication is visual signaling. Before engaging in an intraspecies confrontation, a stone crab will openly display its massive claws. The larger the claws, the more likely that stone crab will be able to claim the local ideal breeding habitat.

Communication Channels: visual

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Life Cycle

Development

Upon hatching, Menippe mercenaria develops through five zoeal stages, which collectively make up the larval stage. These stages lasts between 14-27 days and are strongly dependent upon water temperature. The stone crab then develops into a post-larval stage that lasts between 1 and 2 weeks. During the larval and post-larval stages the stone crabs live among the zooplankton in nearshore waters. From the post-juvenile stage to when the carapace of the young crab develops to a width of 10 mm, the stone crab is considered to be a post-settlement juvenile. At this time they move away from the zooplankton into areas densely populated with other juvenile stone crabs. These places are usually seagrass beds or areas around emergent live rocks. It will then take the stone crab around 12 months to become a late juvenile, which is described as having a carapace width greater than 10 mm but less than 35 mm across. With a carapace width of 35 mm, the stone crab enters into adulthood.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

From egg to death, male Menippe mercenaria live for approximately 6 years, while the females live to be approximately 7 years old.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
6 to 7 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
6-7 years.

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Reproduction

Most female Menippe mercenaria sexually mature around two years old, and are most likely to breed between the spring and fall. The female carries her eggs in a sac-like mass containing 160,000 to 1,000,000 eggs. Optimum water temperature for ovarian development is around 28 deg Menippe mercenaria breeds year-round, although the peak mating season is from August to September in southern Florida. Males may mate with recently molted females.

Breeding season: Year round

Range number of offspring: 160000 to 1000000.

Range gestation period: 9 to 14 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization (Internal ); oviparous

The female carries her eggs in a sac-like mass containing 160,000 to 1,000,000 eggs until they hatch.

Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female)

  • Williams, A. 1984. Shrimps, lobsters, and crabs of the Atlantic coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Gulf Shores Marine Fisheries Commission, 2001. "Summary table of the Stone Crab, *Menippe mercenaria*,: Life History for the Gulf of Mexico" (On-line). Accessed 11/04/04 at http://www.gsmfc.org/pubs/habitat/tables/stonecrab.pdf.
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Menippe mercenaria has separate sexes. Spawning usually occurs between April and September. Under laboratory conditions, female stone crabs will spawn several times during a molting period throughout the year (Cheung 1969). In the field, females spawn every month but spawn most frequently during the warmer months from March to September (Sullivan 1979). Menippe mercenaria females carry the spawned eggs under the abdomen. Hybrid populations resulting from the pairing of Menippe mercenaria with Menippe adina are commonly found where these species co-occur (Wilber 1989).
  • Brown SD and TM Bert. 1993. The effects of temperature and salinity on molting and survival of Menippe adina and Menippe mercenaria (Crustacea, Decapoda) postsettlement juveniles. Marine Ecology Progress Series 99:41-49.
  • Cheug TS. 1969. The environmental and hormonal control of growth and reproduction in the adult female stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say). Biological Bulletin 136:327-346.
  • Hughes ARR and JH Grabowski. 2006. Habitat context influences predator interference interactions and the strength of resource partitioning. Oecologia 149: 256-264.
  • Lindberg WJ, Frazer TK, and GR Stanton. 1990. Population effects of refuge dispersion for adult stone crabs (Xanthid, Menippe). Marine Ecology Progress Series 66:239-249.
  • Mootz CA and CE Epifanio. 1974. An energy budget forMenippe mercenaria larvae fed Artemia nauplii. Biological Bulletin 146:44-55.
  • Ong K-S and JD Costlow. 1970. The effect of salinity and temperature on the larval development of the stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say), reared in the laboratory. Chesapeake Science 11:16-29.
  • Porter HJ. 1960. Zoeal stages of the stone crab, Menippe mercenaria Say. Chesapeake Science 1:168-177.
  • Simonson JL. 1985. Reversal of handedness, growth, and claw stridulatory patterns in the stone crab Menippe mercenaria (Say) (Crustacea: Xanthidae). Journal of Crusteacean Biology 5:281-293.
  • Sullivan JR. 1979. The stone crab, Mennipe mercenaria, in the southwest Florida fishery. Florida Marine Research Publications, Number 36. Florida Department of Natural Resources. pgs. 1-23
  • Wilber DH. 1989. Reproductive biology and distribution of stone crabs (Xanthidae, Menippe) in the hybrid zone on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series 52:235-244.
  • Williams AB. 1984. Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs of the Atlantic Coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C. pg. 420-424.
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Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

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Growth

Menippe mercenaria has five zoeal stages and one megalopal stage (Porter 1960, Mootz and Epifanio 1974). In the laboratory, the Florida stone crab develops into the first crab stage within 27 to 30 days with each zoeal stage lasting 3-6 days and one molt per stage (Porter 1960).
  • Brown SD and TM Bert. 1993. The effects of temperature and salinity on molting and survival of Menippe adina and Menippe mercenaria (Crustacea, Decapoda) postsettlement juveniles. Marine Ecology Progress Series 99:41-49.
  • Cheug TS. 1969. The environmental and hormonal control of growth and reproduction in the adult female stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say). Biological Bulletin 136:327-346.
  • Hughes ARR and JH Grabowski. 2006. Habitat context influences predator interference interactions and the strength of resource partitioning. Oecologia 149: 256-264.
  • Lindberg WJ, Frazer TK, and GR Stanton. 1990. Population effects of refuge dispersion for adult stone crabs (Xanthid, Menippe). Marine Ecology Progress Series 66:239-249.
  • Mootz CA and CE Epifanio. 1974. An energy budget forMenippe mercenaria larvae fed Artemia nauplii. Biological Bulletin 146:44-55.
  • Ong K-S and JD Costlow. 1970. The effect of salinity and temperature on the larval development of the stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say), reared in the laboratory. Chesapeake Science 11:16-29.
  • Porter HJ. 1960. Zoeal stages of the stone crab, Menippe mercenaria Say. Chesapeake Science 1:168-177.
  • Simonson JL. 1985. Reversal of handedness, growth, and claw stridulatory patterns in the stone crab Menippe mercenaria (Say) (Crustacea: Xanthidae). Journal of Crusteacean Biology 5:281-293.
  • Sullivan JR. 1979. The stone crab, Mennipe mercenaria, in the southwest Florida fishery. Florida Marine Research Publications, Number 36. Florida Department of Natural Resources. pgs. 1-23
  • Wilber DH. 1989. Reproductive biology and distribution of stone crabs (Xanthidae, Menippe) in the hybrid zone on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series 52:235-244.
  • Williams AB. 1984. Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs of the Atlantic Coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C. pg. 420-424.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Menippe mercenaria

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Menippe mercenaria is not endangered, but it is protected by United States Code Title 16, ch. 38, and the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. These laws recognize the need to regulate trapping of the stone crab, and establish that only one claw may be removed per stone crab (none if it is an ovigerous female) if it is at least 6.99 cm (2 and 3/4") from the first joint to the tip of the lower immovable finger.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Adult M. mercenaria feed primarily on hard shelled molluscs, some of which are also fished for human consumption. The stone crab does not play a significant role in reducing these populations, but they are capable of adversly affecting the industry.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Between 3 and 3.5 million pounds of Menippe mercenaria claws are harvested annually in Florida alone. This occupation employs around 4,000 crabbers in Florida, as well as many restaurant employees along the eastern sea-board. Federal law mandates that only one claw per crab be removed (it will grow back in 1-2 years), and that the claw must be at least 6.99 cm (2 and 3/4") from the first joint to the tip of the lower immovable finger. Overall, the stone crab industry generates 12-15 million dollars from Florida to North Carolina.

Positive Impacts: food

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Florida stone crab season is from October 15-May 15. Economic/Ecological Importance: The stone crab fishery is unique in that the animals are not killed. The claw is the only part of the crab that is harvested. The animal is then returned to the water to regenerate a new claw. Legal claw size for harvesting is a podus length of at least 70 mm. In 2006, theMenippe mercenaria claw fishery yielded approximately 2.5 million pounds of claws (Sullivan 1979, Simonson 1985).
  • Brown SD and TM Bert. 1993. The effects of temperature and salinity on molting and survival of Menippe adina and Menippe mercenaria (Crustacea, Decapoda) postsettlement juveniles. Marine Ecology Progress Series 99:41-49.
  • Cheug TS. 1969. The environmental and hormonal control of growth and reproduction in the adult female stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say). Biological Bulletin 136:327-346.
  • Hughes ARR and JH Grabowski. 2006. Habitat context influences predator interference interactions and the strength of resource partitioning. Oecologia 149: 256-264.
  • Lindberg WJ, Frazer TK, and GR Stanton. 1990. Population effects of refuge dispersion for adult stone crabs (Xanthid, Menippe). Marine Ecology Progress Series 66:239-249.
  • Mootz CA and CE Epifanio. 1974. An energy budget forMenippe mercenaria larvae fed Artemia nauplii. Biological Bulletin 146:44-55.
  • Ong K-S and JD Costlow. 1970. The effect of salinity and temperature on the larval development of the stone crab,Menippe mercenaria (Say), reared in the laboratory. Chesapeake Science 11:16-29.
  • Porter HJ. 1960. Zoeal stages of the stone crab, Menippe mercenaria Say. Chesapeake Science 1:168-177.
  • Simonson JL. 1985. Reversal of handedness, growth, and claw stridulatory patterns in the stone crab Menippe mercenaria (Say) (Crustacea: Xanthidae). Journal of Crusteacean Biology 5:281-293.
  • Sullivan JR. 1979. The stone crab, Mennipe mercenaria, in the southwest Florida fishery. Florida Marine Research Publications, Number 36. Florida Department of Natural Resources. pgs. 1-23
  • Wilber DH. 1989. Reproductive biology and distribution of stone crabs (Xanthidae, Menippe) in the hybrid zone on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Marine Ecology Progress Series 52:235-244.
  • Williams AB. 1984. Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs of the Atlantic Coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D. C. pg. 420-424.
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Wikipedia

Florida stone crab

The Florida stone crab, Menippe mercenaria, is a crab found in the western North Atlantic, from Connecticut to Belize, including Texas, the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba and the Bahamas that is widely caught for food. The closely related species Menippe adina (gulf stone crab) is sometimes considered a subspecies – they can interbreed, forming hybrids – and they are treated as one species for commercial fishing, with their ranges partly overlapping. The two species are believed to have diverged approximately 3 million years ago.[1]

Description[edit]

The stone crab's carapace is 5 to 6.5 inches (130 to 170 mm) wide.[2] They are brownish red with gray spots and a tan underside, and have large and unequally-sized chelae (claws) with black tips.[3] In addition to the usual sexual dimorphism exhibited by crabs, the female Florida stone crabs have a larger carapace than males of a similar age, and males generally have larger chelae than females.[3]

Eating Habits[edit]

Florida stone crabs prefer to feed on oysters and other small mollusks, polychaete worms, and other crustaceans. They will also occasionally eat seagrass and carrion. Predators that feed on stone crabs include horse conch, grouper, sea turtles, cobia, octopuses, and humans.[4]

Reproduction[edit]

Females reach sexual maturity at about two years of age.[3] Their long spawning season lasts all spring and summer, during which time females produce up to a million eggs.[3] The larvae go through six stages in about four weeks before emerging as juvenile crabs. Their lifespan is seven to eight years.[3] The male Florida stone crab must wait for the female to molt her exoskeleton before they can mate.[3] After mating, the male will stay to help protect the female for several hours to several days. The female will spawn four to six times each season.

Molting[edit]

The Florida stone crab loses its limbs easily to escape from predators or tight spaces, but their limbs will grow back. When a claw is broken such that the diaphragm at the body/claw joint is left intact, the wound will quickly heal itself and very little blood is lost. If, however, the claw is broken in the wrong place, more blood is lost and the crab's chances of survival are much lower. Each time the crab molts, the new claw grows larger.

The crab only molts at night or in night-like conditions due to the crab being extremely vulnerable to predators without the protection of its shell. If the crab is becoming too large for its shell and the sun is up, the crab releases a hormone from a gland located on one of their eye stalks called the x-organ. This hormone prevents the crab from molting from its shell until it finds a safe place to molt or it has become dark enough outside to molt in safety.

Fishery[edit]

Prepared Florida stone crab claws

The Florida stone crab is usually fished near jetties, oyster reefs or other rocky areas, just as for blue crabs. The bodies of these crabs are relatively small and so are rarely eaten, but the claws (chelae), which are large and strong enough to break an oyster's shell, are considered a delicacy. Harvesting is accomplished by removing one or both claws from the live animal and returning it to the ocean where it can regrow the lost limb(s). To be kept, claws must be 2.75 inches (70 mm) long, measured from the tips of the immovable finger to the first joint. Mortality rates for declawed crabs are unknown; 20% of landed claws are regrown,[5] while mortality rates of 47% for doubly-amputated crabs and 28% for single amputees have been observed experimentally.[6]

Florida stone crabs are legal for harvest from October 15 until May 15.[7] The catch varies from year to year, ranging between 2.0 and 3.5 million in the period 1982–2009, overwhelmingly from the Gulf coast (as opposed to Atlantic coast).[5] This is believed to be the maximum amount possible, given current environmental conditions, regulations, and practices. The fishery is clearly overfished, with the number of traps tripling between 1989-90 and 2009-10 without haul increasing (hence having a very low catch-per-trap level). However, due to fisheries management, the haul is believed to be stable, as sufficient spawning happens.

Claws are sold by size, generally in four sizes: medium, large, jumbo, and colossal.

The top buyer of stone crab claws is Joe's Stone Crab in Miami, and it plays a significant role in the industry, influencing the wholesale price and financing many crabbers.[8] The Monterey Bay Aquarium has given the Florida stone crab fishery its highest rating of "Best Choice" for maintaining high fishing standards and working hard to keep the stone crab a viable fishery.[9]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Stone Crabs, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
  • Nicolaas Mink (2006). "Selling the storied stone crab. Eating, ecology, and the creation of South Florida culture". Gastronomica 6 (4): 32–43. doi:10.1525/gfc.2006.6.4.32. 
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