Top 10 Facts About The Red King Crab

One of the most fascinating creatures in the ocean is one of the most targeted animals by fisheries.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most fun and interesting facts about the red king crab, a huge crustacean!

1. The red king crab has a couple of other names as well

The red king crab is the most famous member of the king crab family, a type of decapod crustacean. It’s part of the genus Paralithodes and is scientifically known as the “Paralithodes camtschaticus.”

It’s also known as the “Kamchatka crab” or “Alaskan king crab,” referring to the places they live.

2. It’s the biggest species of king crab in the world

If you thought that the Japanese Spider Crab is big, then you certainly haven’t taken a closer look at the red king crab! It’s the biggest of all king crab species and can have a leg span of up to 1.8 meters (5.9 feet).

Their carapace can have a length of up to 28 centimeters (11 inches), even though it’s more likely not to exceed 17 centimeters (7 inches).

The weight of the heaviest individuals can reach up to 12.7 kilos (28 lbs) with the average being about 10 kilos (22.03 lbs).

3. These fascinating crabs aren’t really red

The spiny king crab is named as such because it has sharp spikes all over its body. This means that the red king crab is named as such because it’s red, right?

Well, not exactly! The color of this particular type of crab as they appear in their natural habitat is actually burgundy, a dark reddish-purple. It’s only after they are cooked that they turn bright red, which means their actual name doesn’t refer to the living animal.

red king crab color
The true color of this type of crab / Wiki Commons

4. They can be found in the northern parts of the Pacific Ocean

These crabs can be found in a wide range and various seas and oceans in the northern part of the world. Their native habitat includes the Bering Sea, many parts of the North Pacific Ocean, the Kamchatka Peninsula, and the waters around Alaska.

They can also be found in the waters to the north and northeast of Europe, including the Norwegian Sea.

5. They can only be found in very cold water

These animals enjoy the cold waters in the northern seas of the world, even though the actual temperature they live in can range from anywhere between −1.8 to 12.8 °C (28.8 to 55.0 °F).

The average temperature that adult red king crabs are found in is on the lower end of this and ranges between 3.2 to 5.5 °C (37.8 to 41.9 °F). Younger crabs are never found in waters with temperatures above 6 °C (43 °F).

6. They aren’t native to the cold waters of northern Europe

One of the most interesting facts about the red king crab is that it’s actually not native to the waters north and northeast of Europe. It’s there because it was introduced here by the Soviet government in the 1960s.

The original plan was to transport these animals overland from the North Pacific and introduce them into the Barents Sea, a sea of the Arctic Ocean in the utmost northwestern part of Russia.

This plan turned into a fiasco as none of the crabs survived the long trip. A second attempt to fly these crabs to the region was more successful and they were introduced in the region near the Murmansk Fjord.

By the late 1970s, the first individuals were spotted in the seas around Norway in Scandinavia.

Murmansk Fjord
The area around Murmansk Fjord / Wiki Commons

7. Adult crabs live most of their lives in the depths of the ocean

The depths these creatures live in depends on their age. Juveniles tend to live in shallower waters and they move deeper and deeper and deeper in the ocean as they age.

By the time they reach two years of age they can be found at depths of anywhere between 20 and 50 meters (66 and 64 feet). Adult crabs live in sandy and muddy areas at depths of over 200 meters (660 feet).

8. Mature females stay in warmer water for a particular reason

The only time adult red king crabs move to shallower waters of the ocean is during the winter and early spring because then it’s mating season.

The mature females move up during this time of the year and the males eagerly follow them. That’s because females need to stay in waters with temperatures that don’t go below 4 °C (39.2 °F) to ensure their eggs are capable of hatching.

9. They engage in a peculiar behavior called podding

They don’t exactly look this way, but red king crabs are actually extremely social animals. They engage in a particular type of behavior that is unique to them called “podding.”

During their podding time, hundreds of red king crabs come together in social groups and spend time together. Seeing a mountain of these crabs is definitely an amazing sight to behold, that’s for sure!

red king crab podding
Crabs while they engage in “podding.” / Source

10. Catching this crab is the most dangerous job in the US

Most of these crabs are caught in the Bering Sea, and more specifically, Norton Sound, an inlet of this sea just west of the US state of Alaska.

One of the most intriguing facts about red king crabs is that catching these animals is statistically the most dangerous profession in the United States! The fatality rate is 80 times higher than that of the average worker and during the catching season, one crab fisherman dies every week on average.

So why are crab fishermen so eager to risk their lives to catch these creatures?

That’s because it’s both the most sold type of crab in the world and the most expensive per unit weight.

Unfortunately, a presumed combination of overfishing and warmer waters are resulting in a serious decline in the numbers of these crabs, a downward curve that seems to be unstoppable.

catching red king crab dangerous
Catching these crabs is dangerous / Wiki Commons