Rare crab found on Northumberland Strait beach

·1 min read
The lady crab is about the size of a rock crab, but has very different markings. (Bob Harding - image credit)
The lady crab is about the size of a rock crab, but has very different markings. (Bob Harding - image credit)

They are little studied and almost unknown on P.E.I., but apparently there are still lady crabs in the Northumberland Strait.

Amateur naturalist Bob Harding found the shell from one recently on a beach just west of Confederation Bridge.

"It's a small little crab, and it looked a lot like a rock crab," Harding told Island Morning host Mitch Cormier.

"A little bit closer look, it looked a little different. The markings on it were quite striking, actually purple."

As a Parks Canada employee, Harding was surprised to find something new on a P.E.I. beach.

With a little more investigation, Harding learned that the crab he found goes by a couple of different common names, lady crab or leopard crab, and the scientific name Ovalipes ocellatus. It was, in fact, not surprising he had not seen one in the national park. Lady crabs typically prefer more southern waters, on the eastern seaboard from Cape Cod to Florida.

Harding also found a scientific study from 20 years ago that looked at a population in the western Northumberland Strait, but they were unknown in other waters around the Island. They can also be found in Nova Scotia's Minas Basin.

Crabby crustacean

Harding posted a picture of the shell to iNaturalist.ca, a site for naturalists to keep track of species across Canada.

If you do find a live one, he said you should be aware they can be aggressive.

"They probably wouldn't pinch too hard," he said.

"But, you know, I've picked up insects that are maybe a centimeter long that I never want to pick up again. So we have to respect some things out there and it's good to be informed."

More from CBC P.E.I.