Thursday, February 24, 2011

A crab by any other name

When I was an observer and I came across a snow crab, I thought to myself, “Hmm, the elusive mid-water snow crab” because I was on a pollock boat (pelagic trawler). But moving on I thought to myself, “opilio Tanner” and wrote it down as such. That’s because all Chionoecetes species we came across were identified as Tanners, with their appropriate scientific name recorded. It wasn’t until I came to Juneau that I heard people refer only to C. bairdi as Tanners, and C. opilio were simply snow crab. Nevermind that in the early years of the fishery, both C. bairdi and C. opilio were called snow crabs for the market. Sheesh!

I like to use scientific names. Is it an obsession? Maybe, but through my research I’ve come across a lot of different names for my crabs. First, they’re not to be mistaken with the snow crabs Chaceon bicolor:

another version of the snow crab, Chaceon bicolor

I was also bumping into papers on the zuwai-gani crab and wondered, "Should I pay attention to this guy?” Well, it’s a good thing that I did, because the zuwai-gani crab is none other than Chionoecetes opilio elongatus (Rathbun 1924)! Maybe.

a bunch of "zuwai crabs"

In some cases, “zuwai” refers to all Chionoecetes species, but the addition of “gani” (which means crab in Japanese) appears to specify the opilio crabs (plus subspecies?). For example, when you hear about the beni-zuwai crab, that's referring to Chionoecetes japonicus.

Fried zuwai-gani, and from the description of the
blogger's eating experience, I don't think these
were soft-shell! Can we say crunchy?!?

Zuwai-gani isn’t the only pseudonym for snow crabs; Germans call them Eismerkrabbe and Canadians sometimes call them Atlantic queen crabs. Fancy, eh?

This is why I’m so obsessed with using scientific names when possible!

What’s in a name?
Kon, T., and M. Sinoda. 1992. Zuwai crab population. Marine Behavior and Physiology 21: 185-226.

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