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Volume xviii, Issue 13 ~ Apri 1 to April 7, 2010

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This Week’s Creature Feature

New crab species discovered in Bay depths

by Margaret Tearman

Divers working deep underwater repairing Bay Bridge pilings made a shocking discovery on April 1: a never before seen species of crab.

“We thought it was a toy or plastic souvenir crab that was stuck in pilings,” said underwater repairman Aloof Hardy. “But when it moved its claws, we knew it was alive.”

It was not only alive, but apparently abundant on the Bay’s deep bottomlands. The divers were working in a section of the Chesapeake where the water is almost 200 feet deep.

“At first we only saw the one crab, probably because the water was pretty murky,” Hardy told Bay Weekly. “But when we looked around, we could see dozens, maybe hundreds of them.”

The first clue that the divers had discovered a new species of crab was the crustacean’s shocking hue.

“It wasn’t blue,” says Hardy. “It was almost purple, real rosy colored.” Hardy and his fellow divers grabbed a couple of the rosy crabs and brought them to the surface for closer observation.

“We wanted to make sure our eyes weren’t playing tricks on us or that something in the water wasn’t changing the crabs’ color.”

Once on deck, the pink hue was even pinker. Other than the color, the crabs appeared identical to the well-known Maryland blue crab.

The excited dive team has turned their catch over to the biologists at the Maryland Crab Institute for further inspection. Until final determination is made, the Hardy crabs are being referred to as Maryland mauves. If determined to be a new species and if the mauves are as abundant as Hardy claims, the discovery will be of great importance to the always-struggling Maryland crab fishery.

“We don’t yet know anything about these crabs except that their coloring is different,” says Maryland Crab Institute director Russ Tayshun. “We’re somewhere between excited and alarmed about this discovery and the prospect of identifying a new crab.”

This summer, you may have a choice of crabs: large, medium, mixed — or mauve.

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