Guide to Britain’s crab species: how to identify and where to find

These characterful crustaceans are a highlight of any rock pooling expedition. Our expert crab and crustacean guide will help you identify common British crab species and the best places to find them.

Hermit crab

These characterful crustaceans are a highlight of any rock pooling expedition. They’re well-camouflaged and expert at hiding under rocks or in the smallest crevices, but can be tempted out with bait – ham or uncooked bacon works a treat.

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Here is our expert guide to common crab species found in the UK, including how to identify and where to find them.

Edible crab ©Jake Graham
Young edible crab ©Jake Graham

Common crab species

1

Hermit crab

This soft-bodied crab lives in an empty spiral shell, moving up sizes as it grows. When inside, its right pincer seals the entrance. Common in rock pools.

A hermit crab

A Hermit crab, Pagurus bernhardus

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Rockpool

2

Common (shore) crab

Our most abundant crab, found on all coasts. The shell has a jagged front edge with tooth-like projections. Colour varies, but often dark green.

A Common (shore) crab
A Common (shore) crab, Carcinus maenas
3

Broad-Clawed Porcelain crab

Hard to find as it’s tiny (up to 1.5cm) and clings under rocks. Downy haired with wide flattened claws, it lives low down the shore, so search at low tide.

A Broad-clawed porcelain crab, Porcellana platycheles
A Broad-clawed porcelain crab, Porcellana platycheles
4

Velvet swimming crab

Bright red eyes give this its other name of devil crab. Hiding under rocks low on sheltered coasts, it’s feisty, snapping with claws if threatened.

Velvet swimming crab
A velvet swimming crab, Necora puber, also known as the devil crab/Credit: Getty images
5

Edible crab

A seafood shack staple, this red-brown crab can grow 25cm wide (the largest ones live in deep water). Its crimped edge shell is like a Cornish pasty.

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Edible crab
Edible crab, Cancer pagurus/ Credit: Getty images
6

Common spider crab

A big, spiny species with spindly legs and impressive pincers up to 45cm long. Commonest offshore but in summer moves into shallower water.

Common spider crab
Common spider crab, Maja squinado/Credit: Getty images