Dungeness Crab | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Dungeness Crab

Cancer magister

Also known as

Dungles, market crab


Sub-polar & temperate waters of northeast Pacific, from the Aleutian Islands to southern California


Soft bottoms

Feeding Habits

Foraging omnivore

Conservation Status

Not listed


Infraorder Brachyura (crabs with short “tail” hidden under the body); Family Cancridae (crabs, most


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Dungeness crabs are a crustacean species. Like all arthropods, they have an “exoskeleton” (a skeleton on the outside of their body), segmented body parts and jointed appendages. Because their skeleton is outside of their body, arthropods must grow a new exoskeleton and shed their old one as they grow; a process called molting. When people find empty Dungeness crab shells strewn along beaches, they often mistake them for dead crabs, when in fact they are the old exoskeletons of crabs that are still alive, but are now a little bit larger than before.

The hard outer body, or “carapace,” of Dungeness crabs is oval shaped and typically yellow-brown to purplish. They have a pair of claws closest to their head, followed by four pairs of walking legs behind the claws. Their claws are serrated, with light-coloured tips and a pronounced hook that distinguishes them from other crab species. Adult crabs typically weigh from 0.7-1.4 kilograms, and they can grow to two kilograms; however they don’t typically reach this size due to high fishing pressure.