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The JAPANESE SPIDER CRAB (タカアシガニ, takaashigani, lit. "tall-legged crab"), Macrocheira kaempferi, is a species of marine crab that lives in the waters around Japan
Japan
. It has the largest leg span of any arthropod . It is the subject of fishery and is considered a delicacy .

CONTENTS

* 1 Description * 2 Distribution and habitat * 3 Life cycle * 4 Taxonomic history * 5 Fishery * 6 See also * 7 References * 8 External links

DESCRIPTION

A Japanese spider crab
Japanese spider crab
at the Manila Ocean Park , the Philippines

The Japanese spider crab
Japanese spider crab
has the greatest leg span of any arthropod, reaching up to 5.5 metres (18 ft) from claw to claw. The body may grow to a size of 40 cm (16 in) in carapace width and the whole crab can weigh up to 19 kilograms (42 lb) —second only to the American lobster among all living arthropod species. The males have the longer chelipeds ; females have much shorter chelipeds, which are shorter than the following pair of legs. Apart from its outstanding size, the Japanese spider crab
Japanese spider crab
differs from other crabs in a number of ways. The first pleopods of males are unusually twisted, and its larvae appear primitive. The crab is orange, with white spots along the legs. It is reported to have a gentle disposition, despite its ferocious appearance. The Japanese name for this species is taka-ashi-gani literally translating to “tall legs crab.” Their armored exoskeletons help protect them from larger predators such as octopuses, but giant spider crabs also use camouflage. The crab's bumpy carapace blends into the rocky ocean floor. To further the illusion, a spider crab will adorn its shell with sponges and other animals.

DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT

Play media A Japanese spider crab
Japanese spider crab
at Shedd Aquarium , USA

Japanese spider crabs are mostly found off the southern coasts of the Japanese island of Honshū
Honshū
, from Tokyo Bay to Kagoshima Prefecture
Kagoshima Prefecture
. Outlying populations have been found in Iwate Prefecture and off Su-ao in Taiwan
Taiwan
. Adults can be found at depths between 50 and 600 m (160 and 1,970 ft). They like to inhabit vents and holes in the deeper parts of the ocean. The temperature preference of adults is unknown, but the species is regular at a depth of 300 m (980 ft) in Suruga Bay where the water generally is about 10 °C (50 °F). Based on results from public aquariums , Japanese spider crabs tolerate at least between 6 and 16 °C (43 and 61 °F), but are typically maintained at 10–13 °C (50–55 °F).

LIFE CYCLE

This crab specimen from the American Museum of Natural History measures 3.8 metres (12 ft) across its outstretched legs

Female crabs carry the fertilized eggs attached to their abdominal appendages until they hatch into tiny planktonic larvae. Development of the planktonic larvae is temperature-dependent and takes between 54 and 72 days at 12–15 °C (54–59 °F). During the larval stage the young crab looks nothing like its parents. It is small and transparent with a round, legless body and usually drifts as plankton at the surface of the ocean. The Japanese spider crab
Japanese spider crab
is an omnivore, consuming both plant matter and animals. It also sometimes acts as a scavenger consuming dead animals . Some have been known to scrape the ocean floor for plants and algae while others pry open the shells of mollusks. They live at depths of 150–300 metres (490–980 ft) or more. The giant spider crabs migrate up to a depth of around 50 metres (160 ft) during breeding season.

TAXONOMIC HISTORY

The Japanese spider crab
Japanese spider crab
was originally described by Western science in 1836 by Coenraad Jacob Temminck under the name Maja kaempferi, based on material from Philipp Franz von Siebold collected near the artificial island Dejima
Dejima
. The specific epithet commemorates Engelbert Kaempfer
Engelbert Kaempfer
, a German naturalist who lived in Japan
Japan
from 1690 to 1692 and wrote about the country's natural history . It was moved to the genus Inachus by Wilhem de Haan in 1839, but placed in a new subgenus, Macrocheira. That subgenus was raised to the rank of genus in 1886 by Edward J. Miers . Aplaced in the family Inachidae , M. kaempferi does not fit cleanly into that group, and it may be necessary to erect a new family just for the genus Macrocheira. As well as the single existent species, four species belonging to the genus Macrocheira are known from fossils .

FISHERY

Temminck, in his original description, noted that the crab was known to the Japanese for the serious injuries it can cause with its strong claws. The Japanese spider crab
Japanese spider crab
is "occasionally collected for food," and even considered a delicacy in many parts of Japan
Japan
and other areas in the region. A total of 24.7 tonnes (54,000 lb) were collected in 1976, but only 3.2 tonnes (7,100 lb) in 1985. The fishery is centred on Suruga Bay
Suruga Bay
. The crabs are typically caught using small trawling nets. The population has decreased in number due to overfishing , forcing fishermen into exploring deeper waters to catch them. Harvesting of the crab is forbidden during the spring, when crabs move to shallower water to reproduce. Populations of this species of crab have diminished over recent years and there are many efforts to protect them. The average size caught by fishermen is a leg span of 1.0–1.2 m (3 ft 3 in–3 ft 11 in).

SEE ALSO

* Crustaceans portal

* Largest arthropods * Fauna Japonica