Graceful Decorator Crab

Graceful Decorator Crab tilted20″x24″

Graceful Decorator Crab
Oregonia gracilis


Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories, University of Washington
San Juan Island, Washington

Archival Pigment Print

One of the most decorated of decorator crabs, this species accessorizes with everything from red and green seaweed to small invertebrates such as sponges, sea squirts, and hydroids. It collects the organisms using the claws on its front pair of legs, clipping off bits and affixing them to tiny, Velcro-like hooks on its shell. Not merely a fashion statement, the decor covering the crab effectively obscures the animal from the view of potential predators. The animal itself, however, maintains a clear line of sight: 

Its eyes are on long stalks that allow a view unobstructed by the overgrowth. Some species of decorator crab appear to select stinging or noxious organisms as cover, using them as deterrent as well as camouflage.