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Callinectes sapidus
male, dorsal view

"talking" crab
anatomical glossary
anatomy page


Crab Anatomy Glossary

EXTERNAL FEATURES

antenna (pl. antennae)
The long segmented appendages located behind the eyestalks. These allow the crab to interact with its environment by touch and chemoreception.

antennule (pl. antennules)
Shorter segmented appendages located between and below the eyestalks, sensory organs; these also use chemoreception to "smell" and "taste".

appendages
Ten legs (five pairs) including a claw-bearing pair with spines used for feeding and defense, followed by three pairs of sharply pointed walking legs, and a pair modified as flat swimming paddles at the rear, swimming legs.

apron
Abdomen of a crab, which is folded under the body; male's is shaped like the Washington Monument or an inverted Y. An immature female's is triangular (pyramid shaped) and mature female's is semicircular, like the dome of the capitol building.

carapace
The shell covering the body that provides rigidity and protective covering. It is made of chitin and is the part of exoskeleton (hard outer covering) that covers the head and thorax (center) of the crab.

cheliped (see appendages)
The first pair of legs, carries the large claw which is used for defense and obtaining food. Male's claws are blue tipped with red; female's are red.

eyes
Visual organs mounted on the ends of eyestalks. The eyestalks contain cells that release hormones that inhibit molting.

lateral spines
Paired points on the widest outside edges of the carapace.

mouth
Opening to the digestive system, located between the antennae. The mouth contains jaws that hold and push food into the esophagus.

sponge
Egg masses. Numbers of eggs vary, some may contain as many as 8,000,000. They are attached to swimmerets.

swimmerets (pleopods)
Paired abdominal appendages under the apron of the female crab on which the eggs are carried until they hatch.

walking legs (see appendages)
Used for movement; crabs are capable of walking forward or diagonally, but usually they walk sideways.

INTERNAL FEATURES

gills
Place of respiration and filtration, consisting of many plume-like filaments arranged around a central axis. There are eight gills on each side of a blue crab's body.

heart
The pump of the circulatory system. It is broad in size and located in the lower center part of the body.

hepatopancreas (midgut gland)
Extremely large organ with several functions, including the secretion of digestive enzymes and absorption and storage of digested food. It fills most of the area around the stomach, depending on its contents of food reserves and water.

intestine
Portion of the digestive system through which digested food passes.

stomach
The organ of the digestive system that breaks down swallowed particles of food. It is lined with small hard plates and projections which aid digestion.

testes
Part of the male reproductive system , located on top of the hepatopancreas on either side of the stomach.

cartilage
Encases muscles that aid in movement of the legs. The muscles are the edible portion of the crab.

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Last Updated:
Monday, August 28, 2006