General Description: Red king crabs (Paralithodes camtschaticus) are a species of large crab that appear dark red or burgundy in color. Red king crabs can grow very large with carapace (the shell covering their back) lengths up to 11 inches and a five foot leg span. Red king crabs have "tails," or abdomens, that are distinctive, being fan-shaped and tucked underneath the rear of the shell. They also have five pairs of legs; the first bears their claws or pincers, the right claw is usually the largest on the adults, the next three pairs are their walking legs, and the fifth pair of legs are small and normally tucked underneath the rear portion of their carapace. These specialized legs are used by adult females to clean their embryos (fertilized eggs) and the male uses them to transfer sperm to the female during mating.
Size and Sex Determination: Male red king crabs grow larger than females and their sex is determined by examining their abdomens. Male red king crabs have a narrow abdominal flap whereas female red king crabs have a wide abdominal flap that covers most of the underside of the abdomen.
Similar Species: Red king crabs are a member of a superfamily of decapod crustaceans also know as stone crabs. They are closely related to blue king crabs (Paralithodes platypus) and golden (brown) king crabs (Lithodes aequispinus).