Northern Kelp Crab (Pugettia producta)

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Northern kelp crabs are sometimes called shield-backed crabs because of the shape of their shells.

This crab’s shell roughly resembles a five-pointed sheriff’s badge, is smooth, and is longer than it is wide. The “points” of the shell have forward-curving hooks. The northern kelp crab’s legs are long and end in sharp points, which it uses to cling to surfaces. The dorsal (back) color of this crab ranges from yellow-green to red, and the ventral (underside) color is red or yellow. This species is commonly found in the intertidal zone on pilings and hidden within kelp beds, particularly bull kelp. Northern kelp crabs often use kelp beds for shelter from predators such as sea otters, as well as for food. While they generally do not decorate their shells, they will sometimes attach pieces of kelp to little hooks just behind their rostrum (the top point of the badge shape), saving them to eat later. While these long-legged crabs look delicate, they are actually very strong and a pinch from their claws can be painful.