Yellow Crab
Cancer anthonyi (aka Matacarcinus anthoyi)

Physical Description

    • Oval-shaped, broad, hard shell
    • Yellow, orange, or yellowish-brown body, with large black-tipped pincers on the claws
    • Large, smooth claws like rock crabs. But unlike rock crabs, no red spotting on underbelly
    • Juveniles: tend to be darker than adults


    • Humboldt Bay, California to Bahia Magdalena, Baja California
    • Rare north of Point Conception


    • From intertidal depths to 430 feet, but prefer 60-180 feet
    • Mainly live in sandy habitat
    • Live in bays, estuaries, sloughs


    • Rock crab females mate soon after molting when their shells are still soft
    • Females hold eggs on pleopods (back flap under abdomen) where they are fertilized
    • Eggs can be fertilized up to a year after mating; female holds onto spermatophore from mating
    • Female holds and protects eggs on her abdomen for a period of weeks before hatching


    • Echinoderms (sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers), snails, and clams


    • Juveniles eaten by octopus and sand stars
    • Adult rock crabs eaten by southern sea otters, scorpionfish, cabezon, barred sand bass, and several species of rockfish

Interesting Facts

    • They are also called Yellow Rock Crab.
    • Yellow crab is the most commonly fished crab in southern California. They comprise 70-95% of the crab fishery in southern California.
    • Rock crabs can molt up to 12 times.

Sources:; Encyclopedia of Life; iNaturalist; California Sea Grant; Species Profiles: Life Histories and Environmental Requirements of Coastal Fishes and Invertebrates (Pacific Southwest); Ocean Protection Council

Photo: David R. Andrew

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