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.


  • Found 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