by Lindsay Eney
November 05, 2010
Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.
This week’s question came from Larry, who asked, “How can you tell the difference between male hardshell and peeler crabs?”
Peeler crabs are actually just hardshell blue crabs that are showing signs of molting. Molting occurs when a crab's hard shell is shed and a new soft shell is grown. “Peeler crab” is a term assigned to crabs that are in pre-molt stages.
The physical signs of change to a peeler are evident in the shell itself as well as the shell color. The new soft shell should be visible beneath the hard outer shell, which is easily seen on the outer edges of the swimming fins. The new shell will first appear as a white line around the edge, gradually turning pink and then red. A red line is a pretty reliable sign of a peeler about to shed its shell. Fine white wrinkles may also appear on the blue skin between the wrist and upper arm.
Abdomen color may also be a sign, but that is a much less reliable sign than the emergence of the new shell. A freshly shed male crab’s abdomen is often whiter, but a crab with a yellow abdomen can still be weeks from shedding.
Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events.
Image courtesy Maryland Department of Natural Resources.