Dungeness Crab

Cancer magister

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Oregon is famous for its Dungeness Crabs. These crustaceans are harvested all along the coast in waters less than 300 feet (91 meters) deep. The crabs are distinguished by their grayish-brown, sometimes purplish, carapace. Their pincers are light brown to dark red with white tips.

To protect themselves from predators, Dungeness Crabs bury themselves almost completely in the sandy ocean bottom. Hairs located around the water intakes at the base of their claws keep their gill chambers free of sand grains.

Dungeness Crabs are voracious and opportunistic carnivores. Forty different identifiable food items have been found in their stomachs although they generally prefer to feed on small clams and abalones by chipping at their shells with their strong pincers. Dungeness Crabs will eat dead animal flesh only if it is unspoiled.

Range and Habitat

Dungeness Crabs dwell in shallow coastal waters from Alaska to Mexico. Their unusual name comes from the Dungeness Spit along the south shore of the Straits of Juan de Fuca between the United States and Canada.

Conservation Status

Common. Dungeness Crabs are commercially harvested but are an excellent example of a sustainable fishery in action.