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Mottled Purse Crabs

Capers Island beach not only contains a boneyard of trees but it is teeming with fascinating collection of treasures that have washed up on the island. One unique creature that can be seen is the mottled purse crab.


a hand holding a clam shell with a mottled purse crab in it.

A student found a mottled purse crab and used an Atlantic cockle clam to hold it!


Ranging along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of North America, the mottled purse crab is typically in the ocean at 15-270 feet deep! These small crustaceans favor sandy or muddy substrates. When found along the shoreline they are usually dead OR you’ve found their molt aka their exoskeleton along the wrack line. 

Mottled purse crabs are opportunistic feeders, scavenging in sand for things like fish (dead and alive), other crabs, clams, and small invertebrates. These crabs are small in size and usually are only 1-2 inches. Their top shell (their carapace) is a mottled pattern with a slight hint of purples or magenta. During breeding season the female purse crab can be seen carrying clutches of eggs. The eggs on the abdomen looks similar a purse being carried and some suggest their rounded body looks like a purse. 

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