information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Great spider crab (Hyas araneus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.



The great spider crab is reddish-brown with a pear-shaped carapace, up to 10 cm long and 8 cm wide. At the anterior end the rostrum projects between the eyes and is split into 2 tapering parts that touch at their tips. The first pair of abdominal limbs, or pleopods, bear pincers and are shorter and stouter than pairs 2-5, which are long, slender and spider-like. The carapace has a few large tubercles and may be covered with encrusting invertebrates.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found around all British coasts, but less common in the south and west.

Global distribution

A northern species found around Spitzbergen, Iceland and Norway, also Greenland and north America, reaching its southern limit in the English Channel.


Hyas araneus is found on hard and sandy substrates, among rocks and seaweed on the lower shore and sublittorally to a depth of about 50 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Carapace pear-shaped, up to 10 cm long and 8cm wide, with scattered, conspicuous tubercles.
  • Reddish-brown dorsally, off-white underside.
  • Frontal region with a longitudinal row of paired tubercles and setae.
  • Bifid rostrum projects between the eyes, the two parts converging at their tips.
  • First pair of abdominal limbs, or pleopods have pincers and are stouter and shorter than pleopods 2-5, which are long, slender and spider-like.

Additional information


Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Clark, P.F., 1986. North East Atlantic crabs: an atlas of distribution. Ross-on-Wye: Marine Conservation Society.

  2. Fish, J.D. & Fish, S., 1996. A student's guide to the seashore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  3. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

  4. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  5. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  6. Ingle, R.W., 1980. British Crabs. Oxford: British Museum (Natural History), Oxford University Press.

  7. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  8. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin.


This review can be cited as:

Avant, P. 2003. Hyas araneus Great spider crab. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 26-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 21/07/2003