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14 Species of Crabs in Texas (Pictures)

Crabs are an integral part of Texas’ coastal ecosystem. The state boasts a rich diversity of crab species, ranging from the iconic blue crab to lesser-known mud crabs and ghost crabs. In this article, we’ll highlight some of the most common and fascinating crab species found in Texas.

Highlighted Crab Species in Texas

Crab Species Scientific Name Habitat Interesting Fact
Blue Crab Callinectes sapidus Gulf of Mexico and coastal marshes Texas is one of the top producers of blue crabs in the United States. They are also an important part of the state’s fishing industry.
Stone Crab Menippe mercenaria Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coast Stone crabs are unique because they can regenerate their claws if they lose them. Fishermen typically only harvest one claw and release the crab back into the wild.
Ghost Crab Ocypode quadrata Coastal beaches and sand dunes Ghost crabs are named for their pale color and nocturnal habits. They are also known for their ability to move quickly on both sand and land.

 

While these three species are among the most commonly encountered, there are many other species of crabs that can be found in Texas. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) recognizes 14 different crab species in the state, including mud crabs, fiddler crabs, and hermit crabs.

Each of these species plays a unique role in the ecosystem, from scavengers to predators to prey. Let’s dive into the world of Texas’ crabs and learn about even more species found in the Lone Star State. 

14 Crabs in Texas

Texas is home to a slew of crab species, including the box crabs, fiddler or ghost crabs, hermit crabs, and many more. Keep reading to learn about the different species of crabs in Texas.

1. Blue Crab

Blue crab in sand
Blue crab in the sand

Scientific Name: Callinectes sapidus

The blue crab is one of the most coveted crab species, thanks to its delicious meat. This stunning crab has a blue to bluish-green colored shell and measures about 4 inches long and 7 inches wide.

When fully grown, the blue crab can weigh up to 2 pounds or a little over. They prefer to live in bay waters or shallow gulf waters, and are often found in sandy and muddy bottoms.

2. Stone Crab

Stone crab on sand
Stone crab | image by Florida Fish and Wildlife via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Menippe adina

The stone crab is a stout creature that has an oval shell, pale olive body, and black claws with white tips. Their shells can reach widths of up to 6 inches, and they are often found in rocky areas, bay and gulf waters, groins and jetties, and even oyster reefs.

3. Fiddler Crab

Fiddler Crab
A fiddler Crab Sheila Shafer-Roberson from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Uca spp.

The Red-jointed fiddler crab, mudflat fiddler crab, and spined fiddler crab are the three Uca species often found in Texas. The males of all three of these species have one claw that is much larger than the other, while the claws of the females are the same size. They also have an average width of about one inch and can be found in the muddy waters of bays throughout Texas.

4. Mud Crab

Harris mud crab on crystal sand
Harris mud crab on crystal sand | image by Andrew Butko via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific Name: Panopeus spp.

Texas is home to various mud crabs in the Panopeus genius. These crabs live underneath shells, in burrows, and even in the grasses found along the salt marshes and coast.

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Mud crabs can reach various widths, depending on the exact type of mud crab, but typically have an average width of about 2 inches. Their bodies are also usually oval in shape, but can come in a wide array of colors.

5. Purse Crabs

Purse crab
Purse crab | image by Florida Fish and Wildlife via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific Name: Persephona spp.

The pink purse crab and the mottled purse crab are the two purse crab species found in Texas. Both of these crabs have a shell width of about 2 inches, but the pink purse crab is a little shorter with a body length of only about 1 1/2 inches, while the mottled purse crab can reach lengths of about 2 1/3 inches. Purse crabs can be found in gulf waters where there are sandy or muddy bottoms.

6. Hermit Crab

Hermit crab
Hermit crab stokpic from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Pagurus spp.

Texas is no stranger to hermit crabs, which are small crabs that don’t have a hard shell like other species. Instead, the hermit crab will find an empty snail shell and squeeze themselves inside.

They use their legs to hold onto the inside of the shell, keeping it in place. As the hermit crab grows, it will eventually outgrow its shell and have to look for a new home.

7. Swimming Crab

blotched swimming crab
Blotched swimming crab | image by FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Portunus spp.

There are more than a few species of swimming crabs that can be found in Texas. The blotched swimming crab, iridescent swimming crab, and sargassum swimming crab are three examples that are found in the gulf and bays of Texas.

Their shells can reach widths of between 2 and 5 inches wide, depending on the exact species, and come in a variety of colors. Their shells are typically compressed and are usually wider than they are long.

8. Spider Crabs

Long-nose spider crab
Long-nose spider crab | image by James St. John via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Libinia spp.

Spider crabs are named for their long, segmented legs that resemble the appendages of a spider. The two most common spider crabs found in the gulf and bay areas of Texas are the longnose spider crab and the portly spider crab. Both of these crabs have a round shell that measures about 4 inches wide and have an extended snout that forks slightly. 

9. Box Crabs

Calico box crab
Calico box crab | image by James St. John via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific Name: Hepatus spp.

Box crabs are found in gulf waters and have an oval-shaped shell that is wider than it is long. Their shell can measure up to 4 inches wide. The calico box crab and the flecked box crab are two species of box crabs that can be found in Texas.

10. Land Crabs

Land crab
Land crab | image by Weimar Meneses via Flickr

Scientific Name: Cardisoma guanhumi

The blue land crab is one of only two species of land crab found in the state of Texas. The second species is the blackback land crab (Gecarcinus lateralis), which has a completely different coloring to its shell.

The blue land crab is typically easy to distinguish from the blackback land crab thanks to its bluish-gray coloring and oval-shaped shell, which reaches about 6 inches wide. Blue land crabs are more terrestrial, but still stick closer to water.

11. Sand Crabs

Puerto Rican sand crab
Puerto Rican sand crab | image by Brenda Bowling via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific Name: Emerita portoricensis

The Puerto Rican sand crab is a somewhat unusual-looking crab that has a cylinder-shaped shell that is brown to gray in color and yellow hind legs. They are also rather small, measuring only about 1 inch wide. They are often found on gulf beaches, living in burrows that they created in waters near the shore and tidal zones.

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12. Marsh Crabs

Squareback marsh crab
Squareback marsh crab | image by JC7001 via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific Name: Armases cinereum

The squareback marsh crab is found in the bay areas of Texas. They thrive in tidal zones, sandy bottoms, and along rocks and marshes.

As their name suggests, their shell has a square shape with a dark brown coloring, and can reach widths of only about an inch. The tips of their claws stand out against its dark body thanks to the white coloring.

13. Pea Crabs

Scientific Name: Pinnixa chaetopterana

The tube pea crab is a  rather small decapod crustacean that reaches a width of no more than 1/2 an inch. Its body is white in color but is covered in dense hairs that are brown or black.

This small crab is often found in the tubes of certain marine worms. These crabs live harmlessly inside the worms, not causing the worms any problems.

14. Ghost Crabs

Atlantic ghost crab
Atlantic ghost crab djhixson from Pixabay

Scientific Name: Ocypode quadrata

The Atlantic ghost crab is the only ghost crab species found in the Gulf of Mexico, and it lives on the beaches in the gulf, burrowing into the sand. This crab has a rectangle-shaped shell that is grayish-white to light yellow in color with a patterned design on its back to help camouflage the creature in the sand.