Security for granular claw crabs, Oedignathus inermis, is an abandoned barnacle shell. They have to locate protection because their soft-shelled abdomens are vulnerable and nutritious. The specific epithet, inermis, means unarmed. Some people call O. inermis soft-bellied crabs. They are much sought by predators.
Seeing more than the pinching claw, which serves to block and camouflage the hideaway, is a rarity. But sometimes luck is on our side. I exposed the one belowby displacing a protecting veil of algae.
The security of empty barnacle shells and other cover has its limits. Just after dawn, when the lowest tides permit, gulls go to work. On the exposed reefs you’ll see them checking barnacles shells, crevices, and small holes; you’ll even see them flipping algae. Discover the discreet niche that conceals the crab, and a tasty treat is yours.
Harbo, R. M. 2011. Whelks to Whales: Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. 2nd ed. Harbour Publishing Co.
Lamb, A. and B. P. Hanby. 2005. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing.
Kozloff, E. N. 1993. Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast. 3rd ed. University of Washington Press.
Post on the granular claw crab in The Natural History of Bodega Head blog here.