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The Florida stone crab, Menippe mercenaria, ranges from North Carolina to Panama. It is brownish red with gray spots and a whitish underside. It has large and unequally-sized claws with black tips. In addition to the usual sexual dimorphism exhibited by crabs, female stone crabs have smaller but deeper carapaces than males of a similar age, and males generally have larger chelae than females. Males grow faster than females, and the proportional size of males claws always increases. Female claw size increases relative to body size only through the small-juvenile stage; in the large-juvenile and adult stages, the body and claws grow at proportionally the same rate. The stone crab fishery is unique because only the claws are harvested; the crab is released back into the water and can grow new claws if it survives the declawing process. Legal-sized claws must be 2.75 inches long, measured from the tips of the immovable finger to the first joint. Florida stone crabs are legal for harvest from October 15 until May 15. Prepared Florida stone crab claws. In Florida, all stone crabs are usually fished in open water from nearshore to 6080 ft depth, using traps that have specific legal requirements. The bodies of harvested crabs are not taken because there is very little meat in the body. The claws, which are large and strong, are considered a delicacy. Harvesting is accomplished by removing one or both claws from the live animal and returning the crab to the ocean where it can regrow the lost limb(s) in 12-14 months. Because stone crabs usually die if their claws are not removed properly, it is important to remove the claws correctly when harvesting them. If both claws are legal-sized, they may both be taken. The probability of surviving the declawing process and living to grow new claws is doubled if only one claw is taken. Stone crabs are carnivores and do not eat seagrass or algae. When a stone crab loses both claws, its diet changes from large mollusks to very small mollusks and other invertebrates. It has hard, sharp, pointed tips on its legs and uses those to probe into sediment and dig or pick out small mollusks. It also will forage on small invertebrates (worms, mollusks) on seagrass blades. It has multiple sharp mouth parts that can penetrate the shells of small prey items. Stone crabs have been popular, specialty food items for 50 years. Per pound of meat, they are the most expensive seafood item sold in the USA. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE] is not affiliated with or endorsed by wikipedia. wikipedia and the wikipedia globe are registered trademarks of
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