Spiny spider crab

Scientific name: Maja brachydactyla
The Spiny spider crab lives up to its name in every way! Their distinctive spiny shells are often found washed up on beaches.

Species information


Body: Up to 20cm long

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The Spiny spider crab is also known as the European spider crab. It is a large, orange crab with long spindly legs like a spider and a distinctive spiny shell. Their oval shells are often covered in algae, giving them a green hairy look! They're not particularly picky eaters and will feed on seaweed, mussels, starfish and well, anything else they can get their claws on!

How to identify

A large orange crab with long, spindly legs like a spider. They have an oval, spiky shell that is often covered in algae. They are larger than Great Spider Crabs, which have a pear shaped shell.


Common on South and West coasts of England and Wales; absent from North Sea, Scotland and Northern England.

Did you know?

Spider crabs undertake an annual migration into deeper waters in Autumn, sometimes travelling over 100 miles in total on their outwards and return journeys.

How people can help

Our seas and coastline are in need of protection if we are to keep our marine wildlife healthy. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or check out our Action pages.