Types of Crabs: Are All These Crustaceans Edible?

Crabs are a culinary delicacy for many countries worldwide, especially in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, and other countries in Asia. Often described with a sweet and salty taste, crab meat is even one of the most popular seafood outside Asia, with the United States being one of the largest importers of the crustaceans, as well as Canada. However, not all types of crabs are safe to eat as wildlife experts warn that there are poisonous crabs to watch out for.

Poisonous crabs contain harmful toxins that can be life-threatening when consumed by humans and other animals. Yet, identifying which crab species are toxic is not always evident at first glance, making it hard to determine which of them are edible. Regardless, it is still possible to differentiate the types of crabs that can be eaten from those that should be avoided. In the past, experts compared some crabs’ toxins similar to the poisonous pufferfish.

Types of Crabs: Edible

Types of Crabs: Are All These Crustaceans Edible?
(Photo : Photo by David Clode on Unsplash)

As mentioned earlier, different types of crabs can either be edible or poisonous. Despite their morphological resemblance, it is possible to classify which crab species or lower classifications of crustaceans can be consumed without feeling stomach pain and other health ailments. Below are some of the edible types of crabs and their scientific name amid more than 4,400 varieties of the animals:

  •  Blue crab (Callinectes sapidus)
  •  Dungeness crab (Cancer magister)
  •  Horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus)
  •  King crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus)
  •  Peekytoe crab (Cancer irroratus)
  •  Rock crab or snow crab (Cancer quanbumi)

In general, these crabs can be found in the world’s oceans and even in freshwater environments. Some crabs are also classified as land-dwelling animals since they can live on land and sometimes far from bodies of water. With this, they can be easily caught by anglers or locals living in coastal areas. According to the Western Australian Museum, there are approximately 11 million tons or cultured crabs and lobsters annually across the globe as part of a major diet by some people.

Also Read: Deadly Crustaceans: Xanthidaes Among the Most Poisonous Crabs in the World

How Do You Know If a Crab is Edible?

What separates an edible crab from a toxic one, aside from its species, is its appearance. Various sources suggest that poisonous crabs are bright in color as evident in their exoskeleton such as most crabs belonging to the family Xanthidae. On the other hand, the edible crab (Cancer pagurus) or brown crab, given its name, is safe to eat. In addition, the smell of crab meat is also a factor if the crustacean should be eaten or tossed into the garbage.

In recent years, global health authorities have issued warnings against eating toxic crabs, which “are not truly poisonous” because they “do not produce the toxins themselves,” according to the Western Australian Museum. This means that the toxicity of these crustaceans is not intrinsic or genetic, suggesting that poisonous crabs likely acquire toxins through their diet or from a potential symbiotic bacterium, the museum adds.


Related Article: Canada Crab Invasion: Haida Gwaii Archipelago Threatened by Invasive Crab Species

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