Stone crabs are one of Florida’s most valuable fisheries, and like other species we depend on for seafood, they often utilize a variety of habitats and undergo a series of physical transformations throughout their life.
Mating in stone crabs takes place near and offshore during the fall and can only occur when the female has molted and her shell is soft. While eggs are fertilized internally, they are eventually deposited beneath the female’s abdomen or “apron” in an external mass called a sponge. Spawning typically occurs during summer months and females can release millions of fertilized eggs in several intervals.
Perhaps the most well-known function of estuaries, such as Charlotte Harbor, is their role as nursery grounds for growing fish, shrimp and shellfish. Very few marine species spawn in estuaries, but estuaries are used extensively as nursery grounds. Most fish and crustaceans (crabs, shrimp, etc.) spawn offshore. The eggs are typically planktonic (free floating). Eggs develop into larvae that depend upon tides and currents to transport them to suitable habitats to settle out and grow within. Settling young fish and crustaceans utilize a number of different survival strategies, but common to all is a quest to not be eaten.