Lopholithodes foraminatus (Stimpson, 1862)
Common name(s): Box crab, Brown box crab, Puget Sound box crab, Oregon queen crab
|Lopholithodes foraminatus caught by Joe Watson of Campbell River BC at 110-130 m depth in a crab trap near Twin Island in the Strait of Georgia, Canada. This is a large male. The distinctive foramen created by the legs can be seen to the left, between the base of the chela and the next leg, lined with smooth purple and white cuticle.|
|(Photo by: Will Duguid, University of Victoria)|
How to Distinguish from Similar Species: The tubelike passage through the folded legs provides certain identification. Lopholithodes mandtii looks similar but it is more brightly colored and has blunt bumps (tubercles) rather than bumps with spines on its carapace. Rhinolithodes wosnessenskii and Phyllolithodes papillosus have a deep posterodorsal depression in their carapace. Oedignathus inermis has a soft abdomen.
Geographical Range: Kodiak, Alaska to San Diego, CA
Depth Range: Low intertidal to 547 m. Usually deep. In the Oregon offshore fishery they are mostly caught at 128-165 m depth.
Habitat: Soft bottoms deeper than 18 m, or on rocky faces overlooking soft bottoms.
Biology/Natural History: This species
is said to feed by scooping up sediment with its claws, and also to feed
on the clams it digs up. Will Duguid reports that in the laboratory
adults of this species are strongly attracted to and feeds on brittle stars.
They may also feed on urchins such as Strongylocentrotus
droebachiensis. It is thought that octopus may be
its main predator. It may bury itself in the sediment, except that
the front with the foramen is exposed for breathing. The abdomen
has knobby plates and Flora
and Fairbanks say it is also partly soft and not held very tightly
against the thorax (this seems to conflict with other accounts).
An intrmittent open coast fishery for this species exists off Oregon.
This species is said to occur in large aggregations of mixed males and females on soft bottoms. Molting within an aggregation seems to be synchronous, but not synchronized with that of other aggregations.
Eggs and larvae of snailfish, especially Careproctus melanurus, the blacktail snailfish, are often found among the gill filaments of these crabs. These may occur in large numbers and even may contribute to collapse of the gills, but usually they do not seem to cause any harm.
Off British Columbia this species has a biennial (two-year) cycle for
brooding. Females molt and breed during mid-summer, then brooded
their eggs and larvae for 18 months before releasing them as zoeae the
second winter or early spring (Feb-April) after breeding. Much of
this long brooding period was due to the fact that the brooded eggs underwent
a 12-month diapause in the gastrula stage. The females released the
larvae gradually, averaging a period of 69 days. Brooding females
have a mean carapace length of 8.9 cm (width 10.7 cm) and a minimum carapace
length of 7.5 cm (width 8.8 cm). Females which have been brooding
for a number of months and post-breeding females often have extensive overgrowth
of polychaete tubeworms, hydrozoans, and small bivalves. The distal
legs and much of the underside has a black stain not seen on males or pre-incubation
females (Duguid and Page, 2011).
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Gotshall and Laurent, 1979
Johnson and Snook, 1955
Duguid, William D.P. and Louise R. Page, 2011. Biennial reproduction with embryonic diapause in Lopholithodes foraminatus (Anomura: Lithodidae) from British Columbia waters. Invertebrate Biology 131:1 pp. 68-82.
Kato, S., 1992. Box Crab. p. 192 in
W.S. Leet, C.M. Dewees, and C.W. Haugen (eds). California's living
marine resources and their utilization. Sea Grant Extension, University
of California, Davis, CA
Parrish, R.H., 1972. Symbiosis in the blacktail
snailfish, Careproctus melanurus, and the box crab, Lopholithodes foraminatus.
California Fish and Game 58(8): 239-240
Peden, A.E. and C.A. Corbett, 1972. Commensalism
between a liparid fish, Careproctus sp. and the lithodid box crab, Lopholithodes
foraminatus. Canadian Journal of Zoology 51: 555-556
General Notes and Observations: Locations,
abundances, unusual behaviors:
This species is said to have previously been often found in the Puget Sound/Straits of Juan de Fuca region by SCUBA divers at depths below 15-18 m but it is now rarely seen. I have not seen one near the Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory but the station museum has a large specimen captured years ago. This species is apparently more common below SCUBA depths so it may by near our station but found deeper than we dive.
This photo of an adult is by Will Duguid
In this closeup of the face the small spinelike rostrum
can be seen. Other features include the spine-tipped tubercles
on the dorsal carapace
and on the dorsal surfaces of the legs and chelae.
Note that in Anomuran crabs the second antennae are based lateral to the eyes, as can be seen here.
Photo by Will Duguid.
The abdomens of adult males and females differ in several ways.
This is the abdomen of a female, which is shown above, is broader than that of a male and is asymmetrical.
The plates on the left side of the female abdomen (to the right above) are larger than those on the left.
The right side of the female abdomen also has a row of small marginal plates but the left side does not.
The female also has pleopods on her abdomen, which cannot be seen without pulling the abdomen away from the thorax.
The abdomen of a male is not as broad and is more triangular.
It has a small row of marginal plates on both sides.
The adult male has no pleopods.
Photo by Will Duguid
This photo helps illustrate why these crabs are called box crabs. When disturbed they fold their legs and abdomen together
and hold them tightly against the body so that they are like a tight box or ball. The crabs on the left of the seat are
upright while those to the left are upside-down.
Photo by Will Duguid
|This is the glaucothoe stage. By this stage the young crab has a well-developed abdomen with pleopods. It can swim with the pleopods.|
|This crab is an instar III juvenile (3 molts past the glaucothoe stage). At this stage it no longer has the pleopods it had as a glaucothoe, and it walks rather than swims.||This young crab is an instar VI juvenile (six molts past the glaucothoe stage).|
|Lithodid crabs such as Lopholithodes foraminatus pass through the nauplius stage before hatching from the egg. A nauplius has only 3 appendages, which will become the first and second antennae and the mandibles (jaws) in the adult, but during the nauplius stage they are paddle-like. The crab hatches from the egg as the first of four zoea larva stages (instars). Zoea larvae swim through the plankton but they do it using some extra thoracic appendages which they grew during the molt, called maxillipeds. After the zoea stages comes one glaucothoe stage, called a postlarva. The glaucothoe swims using pleopod appendages which have appeared on its abdomen during its molt. This is similar to the way a shrimp swims. The glaucothoe molts through several juvenile stages which resemble an adult (they walk rather than swim) but are much smaller. Interestingly, in the molt from glaucothoe to juvenile the young crab loses its pleopod appendages. After several juvenile stages the crab becomes a sexually mature adult. In adults of this species the males have no pleopods but the females re-form pleopods which are used to carry the eggs. These photos are of lab-raised individuals by Will Duguid.|