The Japanese spider crab (高脚蟹 takaashigani, lit. “tall-footed crab”), Macrocheira kaempferi, is a species of marine crab that lives in the waters around Japan. It has the largest leg span of any arthropod, reaching up to 3.8 metres (12 ft) and weighing up to 19 kilograms (42 lb). It is the subject of small-scale fishery which has led to a few conservation measures.
Takaashigani/高足が二, literally meaning “Tall Legs Crab” is the largest crab in the and is caught almost only around Japan especially in the Suruga Bay In Shizuoka Prefecture and Izu Islands, but numbers of the crab have diminished over recent years, and there are many efforts to protect them. In Shizuoka Prefecture, people even help them grow from the eggs before returning them to the sea!
Fully grown it can reach a leg span of almost 4 m (13 ft), a body size of up to 37 cm (15 inches) and a weight of up to 20 kg (44 lb). The crab’s natural habitat is on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean (some 300 to 400 m deep) around Japan, where it feeds on dead animals and shellfish. It is believed to have a life expectancy of up to 100 years.
The Japanese spider crab has 10 legs. The front two legs have been adapted into claws. It has an orange body with white spots on its thin legs. In males, the limbs on which the claws are located become longer than its other limbs, and a large male can widen them to more than 3 m. The oval-shaped and vertically rounded shell can reach 30 cm in width and can be up to 40 cm long. The compound eyes are situated on the front, and two thorns stick out between them. Younger specimens feature hair and thorns on the shell, and their frontal horns are longer, but these gradually atrophy as the crab ages.
In Japan it is considered a delicacy and prices can easily jump!
The Japanese spider crab is caught using small trawling nets, and is often eaten salted and steamed.
Interestingly enough, when bolied/steamed, not only the shell but also the flesh turns red.
They do make for impressive sushi!
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