Crabs and Shellfish in Chesapeake Bay

12_1_14Student Response (Lower)

12_1_14Student Response (Upper)

In last week’s Cast YOUR Vote, students decided that we should study the crabs and shellfish of Chesapeake Bay. You are in luck, because many different types of crabs and shellfish live in Chesapeake Bay.

Dave found a horseshoe crab exoskeleton.
Dave found a horseshoe crab exoskeleton.

Did you know that crabs are arthropods? An arthropod is an animal with an exoskeleton (skeleton outside of its body) that molts to grow. Shellfish are mollusks and crustaceans. Most mollusks have a shell and a body part called a foot, which helps them move. An oyster is a mollusk. Crustaceans are animals that have several pairs of legs and a body made up of sections that are covered in a hard outer shell. Shrimp, lobsters and most crabs are crustaceans. Here are lists of the crabs, other crustaceans and mollusks found in Chesapeake Bay.

Dave checks out a fiddler crab.
Dave checks out a fiddler crab.

Crabs found in Chesapeake Bay:

  • Atlantic Ghost Crab
  • Blue Crab
  • Chinese Mitten Crab
  • Common Spider Crab
  • Fiddler Crab
  • Hermit Crab
  • Horseshoe Crab
  • Marsh Crab

Other crustaceans found in Chesapeake Bay:

  • Common Glass Shrimp
  • Mantis Shrimp
  • Devil Crayfish
  • Skeleton Shrimp
  • Barnacle

Mollusks found in Chesapeake Bay:

  • Arks
  • Atlantic Oyster Drill
  • Atlantic Ribbed Mussel
  • Bay Scallop
  • Eastern Oyster
  • Hard Clam
  • Knobbed Whelk
  • Zebra Mussel

There are so many interesting crabs and shellfish found in Chesapeake Bay, I can’t describe them all here. I picked two to tell you about: blue crabs and barnacles. I hope that you spend some time learning about all the others!

Blue crab. Image source.
Blue crab. Image source.

Blue crabs get their name because they have blue-tinted claws. They are a very popular type of crab to catch, because of their tasty meat. Blue crabs live on the bottom of the ocean. They are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and animals. They eat mussels, snails, fish, plants and dead animals they may find on the ocean floor. The number of blue crabs has decreased in Chesapeake Bay because of over-harvesting and changes to their habitat.

We found these barnacles on a rock.
We found these barnacles on a rock.

Barnacles are crustaceans. They live on rocks, docks, walls, boat hulls and other hard surfaces in the water of Chesapeake Bay. We see a lot of barnacles as we paddle during low tide. There are actually four different species of barnacles that live in Chesapeake Bay! Barnacles are small. They have six overlapping shell plates and a flat base. There is an opening at the top of the barnacle. Two valves open and close like a trap door. The valves open and close and feathery fingers stick out to sweep tiny bits of food into the barnacle. They eat plankton and other small things that are floating in the water.




9 thoughts on “Crabs and Shellfish in Chesapeake Bay”

  1. Will you come to our program on december 18 7:30? It all depends where you live. If you live about 200 miles and up you don’t have to come.

    P.S write back soon

  2. I hope the blue crabs population increases. It would be a shame if the blue crab would disappear from our oceans forever. About the barnacles, that is pretty cool how they catch their food.

    1. Dave and I have practiced tipping our kayaks over many times. We practice rolling back up. We also practice getting out of the kayaks when we are upside down, and then climbing back in.

  3. hey I’m writing a story and need some advice on crabs something you seem to be an expert on. In my story there’s this group that farms crabs in the Chesapeake bay and it’s now a very cold climate (think ice age) but they would have had enough time for adaptation and I’m trying to figure out what kind of crabs might be best for farming (I heard blue crabs are carnivorous so that’s out horse shoe crabs seem to have potential but I don’t know how much meat they have) what adaptations they might have that sort of stuff. I know you probably have a busy schedule and will likely not have the time for a response so I feel kinda bad and I’m sorry but I have some serious doubts I’m going to find the kind of info I need bushwhacking through random articles so response when ever or never I’ll be fine ether way

  4. Looks like you forgot the delicious little pea crabs you find in some oysters. Cute little tasty buggers, Pinnotheres pisum andZaops

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