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10 Ways Red King Crabs Rule

May 15, 2019

Red king crab support important commercial fisheries off Alaska. Here are a few other things you may not know about them.

Crab in water with front legs extended
Podding Red Crabs.

Podding Red Crabs.

Learn More about the Role of Red King Crab in Alaska

  1. Red king crabs are the largest of the commercially harvested crabs in Alaska, growing to 24 pounds with a 5-foot leg span.

  2. Historically, red king crab was the most commercially important shellfish species in Alaska.
  3. Red king crabs are armed with one large, heavy-duty claw for crushing prey, and a smaller claw for more delicate food handling.
  4. Red King crabs eat almost anything they can crush.
  5. A female can brood up to 500,000 embryos under her tail for a year.
  6. An adult crab molts its old shell and grows a new shell as many as 20 times in its life. To molt, the crab absorbs water until it swells up and bursts out of its shell.
  7. Large red king crabs are impervious to most predators, except when they have just molted but before the new shell has hardened.
  8. An adult male may migrate as much as 100 miles round trip a year.
  9. Red king crabs can live for 20-30 years.
  10. Red king crabs hang out in pods. Podding is an intensely gregarious behavior unique to red king crabs, which gather in extremely dense, cohesive social groups, year-round and day-to-day.

Additional Resources

Last updated by Alaska Fisheries Science Center on January 03, 2023