Florida Stone Crab - Menippe mercenaria
Habitat Menippe mercenaria mostly live in burrows in seagrass beds, oyster reefs, and in crevices in rocks.
Range Menippe mercenaria are found on the east coast of the United States from North Carolina to Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico, and throughout the Caribbena to the Yucatan. It lives from 0 to 60 meters and is usually found in the subtidal zone. Mostly live in estuaries and they occur in large densities.
Description Member of the family Xanthidae and this is the largest species in this family. Florida stone crabs have large crusher claws with an enlarged basal tooth. They also have a small pincer claw which has many small teeth that can be used for cutting. They are dark brownish-red in color or less mottled with grey spots. They also have walking legs which are a reddish color with yellow bands going across them. Juveniles of this species appear dark purplish-blue and have a white spot on the carpus when first born.
Ecological Notes This species has the distinct ability to regenerate claws if they are removed as a defense mechanism or by other means which can include harvesting for human consumption. Observations have actually indicated that all crabs in this species are initially right-handed. Juveniles can replace the claw in one molt cycle. Some individuals in this species have been reported to regenerate two claws which measure at 370 mm in length in as little as 6 months. Menippe mercenaria has two separate sexes. They usually spawn between April and September while out in nature. The females carry the spawned eggs under the abdomen. They can also produce hybrid populations with the species Menippe adina. Menippe mercenaria has five zoeal stages and one megalopal stage. Temperature of the seawater is important in reproduction of this species. The optimal temperature for larval growth was 30 degrees Celsius. The fisheries for this species are unique because the animals are not killed. The claw is the only part of the crab that is harvested. After the claw is harvested, the crab is returned back to the water to regenerate a new claw.
Personal Information The Florida Stone Crab was found using a trawl on a research barge outside of the Coastal Studies Institute in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. The sound that this crab was found in was the Pamlico sound.
Journal Articles 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.
This article studied the reproductive and distributions patters of over 800 stone crabs including Mercenaria menippe. This study was done to determine how they produced and where they liked to find habitats.
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.
This article studied the effects of salinity and temperature on the development of the Florida Stone Crab. This was done to determine the perfect temperature and salinity in which this species of crab could flourish.
Puglisis, Melany P. 2008. Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory- Menippe mercenaria. Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce. www.sms.si.edu/IRLSpec/Menippe_mercenaria.html.
Contributed by Hayley Nininger - 2018