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Red King Crab
Photo: Hjelset
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Red King Crab

The red king crab is one of five species in the same family. Three of the species live in the northern part of the Pacific and the Bering Sea. The other two live off the coast of California. The red king crab is the only one found in the Barents Sea.

In Russia it's called kamtsjatka crab.

Russian scientists planted red king crabs in the Murmansk fjord in the 1960s to create a way of living for the locals in the area. Since then the crab has spread eastward and westward in the southern Barents Sea. 

The king crab is preying on all sessile benthic species, with a dominance of soft bottom species. Investigations have shown that large specimens of echinoderms, bivalves and siphunculids disappear in areas with high abundances of crabs. I addition, there is a reduction in the number of dominating species, while the number of species have increased after the crab introduction.

Ongoing research focus on effects on fi sh eggs from crab predation, particularly on egg clutches from lumpsucker. In addition, the role of the king crab as a vector in the spread of the blood parasite in fishes Trypanosome, are investigated.

A project on temperature tolerances of the king crab larvae have revealed tolerance limits for survival between –1.5 and 14 oC, which may indicate a much wider geographical area for potential spreading of the crab than earlier anticipated.

The appearance of the red king crab in our waters has been an eye-opener to everyone when it comes to the problems about introduced species in marine habitats, and it has indicated what challenges we are facing in future in this field.

Facts about Red King Crab

Latin name: Paralithodes camtschaticus
Natural Distribution: Bering Sea, Okhotsk Sea, and the North Pacific
Distribution in Barents Sea: Along coastal waters and tributaries in the southern region of the Barents Sea, at depths ranging from 5 to 400 m depending on time of year
Maximum size: Rarely exceeds 8 kg / 23 cm (carapace length in Norwegian waters)
Diet: Bottom species, plants

Contact

Jan H Sundet
913 66 033