Monday, August 02, 2010

beautiful swimmer

Did you know the blue crab is the Maryland state crustacean? Seriously, we have a state crustacean. Does Kansas have a state crustacean too? Anyhow, these guys make their home in our Chesapeake Bay. And I could go on and on about how the Bay is dying and the crabs are disappearing, but instead let's look at these little critters my boy loves to fish out of the Bay.
The Greek word for them tranlates into "beautiful swimmer". They really are quite lovely. They're called blue crabs because of the blue pigment which is best seen on their claws.
Around here they are an indicator species for the health of the Bay, they're the main means for making a living for many watermen, and they're a favorite staple on local menus. They hang out on pilings and in shallow water around the marina. You can tell where they are by the tell tale bubbles that rise to the surface. For us, they are just something slow enough for a 6 year old to scoop out of the water and play with before setting them free again.
There are restrictions on which ones you can keep for eating based on size and gender. The male, or Jimmy, is identified by the pointy, distinctly - uh- male- looking marking on his belly. The sooks, or females, have a very rounded - uh booby looking mark on their bellies when mature, and more of a triangle when young. Makes it pretty easy to figure out.
(a male - or Jimmy- on the left and immature female - or Sook- on the right)
Crabs are invertebrates and have an exoskeleton. That means about 20 times in their little lives they molt, or shed their exoskeleton which they have outgrown. When this happens, the crabs become "soft shell" and this is when they hide to stay safe from predators, like hungry locals who consider soft shell crabs fried and eaten whole to be a delicacy. This is also the time when the crabs mate. We like this time because it means cool, empty shells wash up for little people to play with.
Probably more than you wanted to know about the blue crab, but they are literally an every day part of our lives floating here on the Chesapeake. This time of year it's all Zach wants to do each evening. Catch, sketch, and release. Over and over.

7 comments:

Michele said...

You mean you didn't keep them, steam them and cover them in Old Bay?? Raif would be disappointed.

gardenmama said...

what a beautiful post cindy!
i enjoyed hearing about the blue crab, it certainly is stunning! zach is having such fun and learning so much in nature's classroom! xo

mb said...

mmmm i mean yay! lol. i love blue crabs, used to hang out in delaware bay and of course they are big there as well. i am really excited for quinn to do more nature journaling and sketching... he is SO into crabs right now, as you've seen. :) he is getting good at sizing and sexing them- i forget that there are people out there who don't know the difference ;).

Joy said...

Very cool! Your description of their markings cracked me up. :) I love Z's sketch. That's great!

ecoMILF said...

beautiful shots- those crabs really earn their name! xo m.

Lily said...

Honestly your summertime photography is breathtaking Cindy. The light is like the most pure, rich, glorious honey. I know it's hot but gee it must be sheer bliss living on the water at this time of year.

Little Lovables said...

wonderful creatures!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...