Globose Kelp Crab

Kelp Crab (Taliepus nuttalli)

Contributed by TPERP Randal Rand

Southern Kelp Crab – J&W Tam
Globose Kelp Crab – J&W Tam
G. Kidder

Identification: The carapace is smooth and usually brown to reddish (this specimen has barnacles growing on the carapace).

Size: Carapace width 4.75 inches (93 mm).

Range and Habitat: Santa Barbara to Magdalena Bay, Baja California. Found on rocks and in giant kelp in the low intertidal to about 250 feet down (75 m). These are occasionally found hiding out in the surfgrass at Cabrillo. Sometimes they are the victims of heavy foot traffic during busy days at very low tide and great weather. Even the rangers have been guilty of stepping on them sometimes. The population is probably not in any danger, though.

Natural History: This is a herbivore feeding on brown algae. Females can produce offspring every 30 days and can hold as many as 61,000 developing eggs. It may be worth warning folks about those claws. Look how beefy they are. This is one of the few organisms at Cabrillo that could really hurt someone in the intertidal. If one of those things latches on to someone’s fingers, it could mean an ER visit. Fortunately, they are slow. I would worry more about rattlesnakes.


Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Family: Epialtidae
Scientific Name: Taliepus nuttalli
Common Name(s): Globose Kelp Crab

Literature Cited

Guide To Marine Invertebrates Alaska to Baja California 2nd Edition (Revised). Daniel W. Gotshall. A Sea Challengers Publication (An Imprint of Shoreline Press).

Jeffery L. Brandon, and Rokop, F. J. Life Between the Tides – The Natural History of the Common Seashore Life of Southern California. 1985. American Southwest Publishing Company of San Diego.

Last revised 23-Jan-20