06. 16. 2005
The blue crab sex mystery
If you grew up in Maryland like I did, blue crabs are nothing special to you - if you've seen one, you've seen them all. Once you in a while, I might have come across one that looked somewhat unique, maybe even a little scary, but then thought it best not to examine something I'm eating that carefully. But sometimes it's from the commonplace that strange things emerge.
The Washington Post reports today that this extremely rare dual-gender crab was caught in the Chesapeake Bay. How did the waterman who caught this crab know that it was a bilateral gynandromorph (one side female and the other side male)? He noticed that the pattern on the underside of its shell is a combination of male and female patterns, and that one claw is red (a female trait) while the other is blue (a male trait).
Saved from the steam pot, this crab now resides at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, Virginia. Mating season having passed, crab expert Romuald N. Lipcius suggests that the crab may have already mated with himself/herself. Watermen apparently conducted their own experiment by throwing the gynandromorph in a tank with a female crab. The confused crustacean first began mating as a male and then changed its mind and ate the female (a common female crab behavior).