Monday, May 9, 2011

Unwanted: Crabs with Fur!

Scientists need your help solving mitten crab mystery
The Smithsonian Environmental Research Center wants a handle on how many Chinese mitten crabs are in the Chesapeake Bay and along the Atlantic Coast.

Scientists have set up a website to share information about mitten crabs and collect reports of crab sightings.

"We're really quite interested in any reports people might have, and understanding better the status of the crab in the Chesapeake - and whether it may have a significant impact," said Gregory Ruiz, a senior scientist and invasive species expert at SERC in Edgewater.
The Chinese Mitten crab is a potential invader from, you guessed it, China.  They have successfully invaded the San Francisco Bay drainage, where they cause considerable damage to earth works in the Sacramento River system.  The adult crabs live in fresh water but spawn in salt water, where the young grow until old enough to move upstream. They look much like Spider Crabs or even the Alaskan King or Snow Crab, but have a distinctive layer of "fuzz" on their claws.

It is illegal to transport a live Mitten Crab across state lines.

According to the SERC site, the Mitten Crab hasn't been found in the Bay since 2007, but if any are found, the Invasions Lab, headed by Dr. Greg Ruiz would like to know ASAP.  You can contact them through the site listed above, calling SERC directly (see below), or even by shooting me an email.
If you catch a mitten crab:
• Do not throw it back alive!
• Freeze the animal, keep it on ice, or preserve it in rubbing alcohol as a last resort
• Note the precise location and date where the animal was found
• Please take a close-up photo of the animal. Photos can be emailed to for preliminary identification Include your contact information with the photo
• If you cannot take a photo, contact the Mitten Crab Hotline (443-482-2222)

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