We want to introduce you to some of the amazing marine life you can find in the Selsey Bill and Hounds Marine Conservation area. Each week we will feature a short piece by Anya Frampton who is lucky enough to interact with them as part of her office. With so many to choose from large, small, or almost invisible our first feature is …….
Creature Feature Week 1 – Velvet Swimming Crab (necora puber)
A very distinctive crab with bright red eyes that have led to some calling it the Devil Crab. They are extremely feisty and instead of shrinking away from you they are more likely to rise on their rear legs and clack their claws together to see you off.
A common site, they will venture close to shore and can be seen towards the end of the groynes on a summer’s day. Growing to be a maximum of 10cms they are a very pretty crab, deep blue in colour you can see lighter patterning on their rear legs. That lovely colouration is obscured as short dense hair covers the shell giving them a muddy or velvet appearance, hence the name.
The last two legs are flattened as they are a true swimming crab. They use the last two legs as paddles for swimming short distances at time. Be advised they are the largest and fastest of our British Swimming Crabs!!
Like many crabs they enjoy hiding in crevices and under weeds and rocks – with the eyes being the first thing that you notice. During mating season, you will see them huddled together. The male on tops appears to be cuddling her when in fact he is holding on tightly to his chosen lady, waiting for her to moult so mating can take place.
Enjoying a varied diet that includes bottom living worms, prawns, fish, and even other crabs they are partial to mussels and oysters. Whilst they do have front claws these are not as strong as in other species and cannot just crack the shell open. They work slowly, chipping away where the two halves of the shell join, holding it in one claw, rotating it, whilst the other works its way in to final reveal the treat inside!!
Photograph: Alison Fuller Shapcott