FAO Home>Fisheries & Aquaculture
FAO of the UN
Eriocheir sinensis:   (click for more)

See tree map  display tree map
  • Eriochirus sinensis  Milne-Edwards, 1853
    FAO Names
    En - Chinese mitten crab, Fr - Crabe chinois, Sp - Cangrejo chino.
    3Alpha Code: ERS     Taxonomic Code: 2311302803
    Scientific Name with Original Description
    Eriocheir sinensis  Milne-Edwards, 1853. Milne-Edwards, H. 1853. Ann. Sc. Nat. (3), t. 20, p. 177.
    Diagnostic Features
    Square shaped carapace, a little longer than wide, markedly convex and uneven, bearing four sharply edged epigastric lobes.  Propodus of the fifth pereiopod rather narrow and slender with dactylus claw-shaped. Males produce an intensive mitten-like covering on the claws, with hairs both at inner and outer surfaces or only at the outer surface (always naked and smooth in other Eriocheir species). No longitudinal row of hairs on dorsal part of propodus in the anterior two pairs of ambulatory legs.  Front with four acuminated and deeply separated teeth. Four anterolateral tooth distinct (not rudimentary). 
    Geographical Distribution
    Area of origin in temperate and tropical waters between East Russia (Vladivostock) to South-China, including Japan and Taiwan, with its centre of occurence in the Yellow Sea. Introduced into European waters in the early begining of 1900 century (first recorded from the German river Aller in 1912). Now found in the North Sea, Baltic Sea and the Atlantic coasts of France, in estuaries and rivers (to 700 km upstream the river Elbe). E. sinensis established self-reproducing populations in Europe after multiple introductions. More recently found in North-America (e.g. Detroit River, Great Lakes, San Francisco Bay in 1992) and Hawaii (1950s). Among possible vectors for these introductions are cited the ballast water of ships.
    related Launch the Aquatic Species Distribution map viewer
    Habitat and Biology
    In shallow waters.In estuaries and rivers (centenars of km upstream), also in canals.An epibenthic-reptant species. Also burrowing.Omnivore. Juveniles eating mostly vegetation, but preying upon small invertebrates as they grow.
    E. sinensis is a catadromous species. Its life-cycle is characterized by migrations downstream to reproduce in the brackish waters, with changing salinities, of estuaries. In their native habitat, adult crabs have been found 1400 km upstream the river Jangtsekiang. Adult-reproductory crabs migrate downstream backwards to the marine habitat. There, females can carry 250000 to one million eggs, and both sexes die soon after reproduction. The larvae are developing in marine waters. After a 1-2 month period as planktonic larvae, the juvenile crabs settle in salt or brackish water in late spring, then migrating to freshwater. E. sinensis reach maturity in 2 to 3 years, depending on water temperature.  An euythermal and euryhaline species. During high tides (upstream currents) the larvae are migrating into the water column and are transported by the currents. 
    Male: carapace lenght between 25-90 mm, carapace width 23-80 mm. Female: carapace lenght between 24-83 mm, carapace width 20-80 mm. Juveniles between 7-32 mm lenght.
    Interest to Fisheries
    No fishing statistics available. The massive occurence of E. sinensis caused damages on dykes and other coastal and harbour installations because its burrowing activity. Feeding on fish in nets reduce harvests in river fishing industry.
    E. sinensis has been used for human consumption in China, where it is apprerciated. Also as bait for eel fishing, to produce fish meal, and cosmetic products.
    Local Names
    GERMANY : chinesische Wollhandkrabbe .
    JAPAN : Chugoku-mokuzugani .
    SPAIN : cangrejo peludo chino .
    UK : hairy crab .
    Three other species of the genus Eriocheir are occuring in Asia: E. japonicus de Haan, E. leptognathus Rathbun and E. rectus Stimpson. All four species are very similar.
    Threat to humans: There are risks, however, to human health from consumption of raw or poorly cooked E. sinensis, because this crab is the secondary intermediate host for the parasite Paragonimus westermanii, the Oriental lung fluke. Mammals, including humans, are the final host.
    Sakai, T. - 1976. Crabs of Japan and the adjacent seas. Kodansha Ltd. Tokyo. .  773 p..
    Vigneux, E., P. Keith & P. Noël - 1993. Atlas Préliminaire des crustacés décapodes d'eau douce de France. Coll. Patrimoines Naturels, vol. 14. S.F.F., B.I.M.M. - M.N.H.N., C.S.P., Min. Env., Paris. .  55 p ..
    Powered by FIGIS