Pelagic Red Crab – Pleuroncodes planipes, also called simply “red crab”, tuna crab, or a langostino. It is a type of squat lobster (dorsoventrally flattened crustaceans with long tails held curled beneath the thorax). These crabs are one of the most abundant species of micronekton in the California Current which sometimes drives them up the California coast. Occasionally they swarm beaches when in the pelagic zone, and as they wash up and become stranded on shore, they become food to seabirds.
They are a favorite food of tuna (thus the name ‘tuna crab’) along with billfish, yellowtail, shark, and gray and blue whales. Marine mammals, like sea otters, and many species of seabirds, like the herring gull, also feed on the pelagic red crab.
- The pelagic red crab looks like a lobster, but has a shorter, flattened abdomen.
- The small, micro hairs on their legs are used to collect food.
- Small crustacean, up to 5.1 inches long.
Range and Habitat:
- These crabs are found south of San Diego, CA, to Chile in the Pacific, but travel more north during El Ninos. They like shallow waters and reside along the continental shelf west off Baja California, Mexico.
- Their habitat is great. The first two years of life, they live mainly at the bottom, and at this stage in life, are also found as a planktonic animal. After this time, they stick to the benthic zone but live part of their lives in the pelagic zone getting swept up in the California Current and can be found at the surface.
- Pelagic red crabs feed on protists, zooplankton, and will filter diatom blooms.
While Pleuroncodes planipes is not a major commercially sought after crustacean, other types of squat lobsters are fished for commercially and are sold as ‘langostino lobster’.
Boyd, Carl M. “The Benthic and Pelagic Habitats of the Red Crab, Pleuroncodes Planipes.” Pacfic Science July 1967: 394-403.
“Pleuroncodes Planipes.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.
“Squat Lobster.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.