Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Crabby sex

I was minding my own business in a nearby public park when I saw something that caught my attention. A couple that was barely visible, very close together.

I happened to have my camera handy, and moved a bit closer.

They were almost entirely hidden beneath a cover, the male on top with only his face peeking out. The female was underneath, facing the male, even more hidden.

Here's a sequence of pictures as I deftly sneaked closer and closer.

Note the fantastic mood lighting, the shimmering waves of rainbow-colored light refracting off the nearby surface of Puget Sound, highlighting the lucky couple.

Shortly after taking picture 3 above, the couple burst out from under cover and started scurrying away from me. I followed, of course, as nonchalantly as possible under the circumstances, hiding behind my camera.

He managed to carry her heroically away, remaining in flagrante delicto (in the blazing misdeed) throughout. See more photos below.

Note the blurry image of the rapidly fleeing coupled couple in the top photo of this series of 3. The couple is in sharper focus in the lower 2 photos, they slowed down a bit and I got steadier. Note the crabby expressions on both of their faces, and the miraculous-seeming continuing embrace even as he carries her away.

At this point, you may be wondering if your intrepid voyeuristic reporter started feeling a bit bad and the answer is yes. I decided I'd seen and photographed enough and determined to stop where I was and let them be. They sidled off into a dark grassy area and I watched them go (and took just a few more pictures, see one more below as they escape into darkness).

Note: the color of these photos has not been altered at all. I boosted the contrast of a couple of them just a tiny bit.

Dungeness crab mating is fascinating and highly romantic. Pheremones in the female's urine attract males to interested females. Upon locating a female the male initiates a protective pre-mating embrace, abdomens touching, face to face. The embrace may last up to a week. Then, the female molts (sheds her hard shell) and signals her readiness by urinating on or near the male's antannae. Copulation ensues within an hour, and the embrace lasts for another couple of days.

The embrace may be protective of the female as her new shell hardens, and also prevent other males from mating.

The female stores the sperm until her eggs are mature several months later, and then the ripe eggs are fertilized by the stored sperm. She carries the fertilzed eggs attached to her abdomen for several more months until they hatch into free swimming larvae.


Jeffry R. Johnston said...

Loved the play-by-play and way to step back and let nature take it's course.

Tracy Rouleau said...

Gorgeous pics!

Eric Heupel said...

What a romantic (if voyeuristic) series!
Excellent job!