Dozens of species of crabs, lobsters and hermit crabs inhabit the North Sea. You find mostly lobsters, shore crabs, flying crabs and hermit crabs in the tidal and coastal waters. Edible crabs and Norway lobster live in the deeper parts of the North Sea.
Male or female crab?
Crabs are powerfully built and have a sturdy skeleton. The carapace is flattened and the back end is folded under the body. Just turn a crab over and it is easy to see. By lobsters, this would be the tail. You can determine whether or not the crab is male or female by all crab species based upon the shape of this forward pointed part of the carapace. If the ‘tail’ is broad and roundish, sort of resembling a bee hive, then it is female. The female stores her eggs under this flap. If it has a triangular shape, therefore narrow and pointed, then it is a male. The shape will vary between the various species, one resembling a lighthouse while the other looks more like a pyramid. Under the flap of the male are two penises, left and right. These are actually converted legs!
New: brush-clawed shore crab
The brush-clawed shore crab (Hemigrapsus penicillatus) is a recently introduced non-native crab species, first found in the Netherlands in April 2000. The crab has tufts of hair on its claws, which looks like hair from a paint brush. Despite its much smaller size, it competes with the shore crab for food. The brush-clawed shore crab, also known as the Japanese shore crab, probably came to this area in the early 1990s, along with a cargo of Pacific oysters destined for the French Atlantic coast.
Crabs on Texel
On the beach of Texel, you often find all kinds of (dead) crabs along the flood mark: pennant’s swimming crab, green shore crabs, flying crabs and small and common hermit crabs. Sometimes you find a huge edible crab in a pool on the breakwater. The Asian shore crab is an exotic species, living on the Wadden Sea side by the foot of the dike. It lives together with the green shore crab. The velvet swimming crab, the Chinese mitten crab, the helmet crab, the long-legged spider crab and the polished crab are rare around the island.