Invasion History

First Non-native North American Tidal Record: 1950
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record:
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record: 1950

General Invasion History:

Callinectes bocourti is considered native from Jamaica and Belize to Santa Caterina, Brazil. It prefers brackish waters, but ranges from marine to nearly freshwaters, often in similar habitats to Callinectes sapidus (Blue Crab) in places where their geographic ranges overlap (Williams 1984). It has occurred sporadically on the Atlantic coast of the US from southern Florida to North Carolina, and on the Gulf Coast, west to Mississippi. Occurrences of Callinectes bocourti on the Atlantic coast of Florida and northward probably result from transport by the Gulf Stream and its meanders (Williams and Williams 1981). Occurrences in the inner Gulf of Mexico probably result through transport in ballast water. There is no evidence that this crab reproduces in US waters. (Perry 1973, Williams 1984; Perry and Yaeger 2006; USGS Nonindigenous Species Program 2009).

North American Invasion History:

Invasion History on the East Coast:

The first reported East Coast collection of Callinectes bocourti occurred in 1950, in Matheson Hammock, Biscayne Bay, Florida (Provenszano 1961, cited by Gore and Grizzle 1974). This crab has since been captured in Biscayne Bay (in 1969 and 2006), in the Atlantic off Broward County (in 1968), in the Indian River Lagoon (in 1973 and 1988), at Ponce Inlet (in 2003), Matanzas Inlet (in 2003), the Atlantic near Jacksonville (in 2002), the Nassau River (in 2003) and the Amelia River (near the Georgia border) (Gore and Grizzle 1974; Williams and Williams 1981; United States National Museum of Natural History 2009; USGS Nonindigenous Species Program 2009). In the Carolinas, it was first captured in 1977, at Carolina Beach, North Carolina. It has since been found in at least 14 locations, mostly in brackish rivers, in South Carolina (United States National Museum of Natural History 2009; USGS Nonindigenous Species Program 2009). While ballast water transport cannot be excluded, most of these occurrences are away from major ports, and could be explained by transport in the Gulf Stream and its meanders (Williams and Williams 1981). We have treated East Coast occurrences as natural range extensions, without known reproduction.

Invasion History on the Gulf Coast:

Callinectes bocourti was first caught in the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi Bay, Mississippi in 1971 (Perry 1973). This crab has been collected in or near Biloxi Bay at least four times since (in 1990, 1997, 1998, 1999) and at least once in Mobile Bay (in 2000) (USGS Nonindigenous Species Program 2009). Occurrences near Gulf of Mexico ports probably result from ballast water transport of crabs or larvae.


Callinectes bocourti has a broad and flat carapace, twice as wide as long, whose greatest width is marked by a prominent spine, which is the ninth (starting from the front) and largest of the lateral teeth on each side of the carapace. The carapace has two small, triangular, frontal teeth in the center, with a larger pointed tooth on each side. The propodus ('hand') of the claw and the carpus ('wrist') bear prominent ridges with a granular surface. The fifth pair of legs is flattened and expanded for swimming. The color of the dorsal carapace of the crab varies from olive, grayish green, greenish chestnut, or forest green, with purplish to red markings. The claws are red to dark reddish brown. The legs are reddish above, and maroon, yellow, and olive green. The under parts of the body vary from dirty white to purplish red (Williams 1984).

The abdomen differs sharply between the sexes. In the female, it is broad and rounded, with a triangular tip. In the male, it is T-shaped, with a broad base, narrowing sharply, and then broadening slightly near the tip (Williams 1984). The largest reported male crab was 132 mm wide (across the carapace, including the lateral spines), and the largest female was 146 mm (Williams 1984).


Taxonomic Tree

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:   Arthropoda
Subphylum:   Crustacea
Class:   Malacostraca
Subclass:   Eumalacostraca
Superorder:   Eucarida
Order:   Decapoda
Suborder:   Pleocyemata
Infraorder:   Brachyura
Superfamily:   Portunoidea
Family:   Portunidae
Genus:   Callinectes
Species:   bocourti


Potentially Misidentified Species



Life History- In crabs of the family Portunidae, the male attends the female before molting, and carries the female around, underneath his carapace. He releases the female, allows her to molt, and then copulates with her, inserting the first pair of pleopods, carrying sperm, into the female's seminal receptacles. The eggs are fertilized internally, and then extruded as a 'sponge' or a mass of eggs brooded between the abdomen and the body (Barnes 1983; Williams 1984). The eggs hatch into zoeae, larvae about 1 mm in size with long spines, which drift in the plankton. Each zoeae goes through several molts, and eventually molts into a postlarval megalopa, with prominent eyes and partially developed appendages. The megalopa is capable of crawling on the bottom and active, directed swimming. It settles and molts into a miniature 'first crab' which has all the features of an adult crab (Barnes 1983). The life cycle of Callinectes bocourti roughly resembles that of Callinectes sapidus, with spawning in high-salinity habitats (Norse 1978; Williams 1984).


Carrion, benthic invertebrates, plant material


Fishes, birds, humans

Trophic Status:




General HabitatGrass BedNone
General HabitatCoarse Woody DebrisNone
General HabitatTidal Fresh MarshNone
General HabitatSalt-brackish marshNone
General HabitatUnstructured BottomNone
General HabitatOyster ReefNone
General HabitatMarinas & DocksNone
General HabitatMangrovesNone
Salinity RangeLimnetic0-0.5 PSU
Salinity RangeOligohaline0.5-5 PSU
Salinity RangeMesohaline5-18 PSU
Salinity RangePolyhaline18-30 PSU
Salinity RangeEuhaline30-40 PSU
Tidal RangeSubtidalNone
Vertical HabitatEpibenthicNone

Tolerances and Life History Parameters

Minimum Salinity (‰)0Field occurrence, Jamaica (Norse 1978)
Maximum Salinity (‰)34.5Maximum field salinity (Jamaica, Norse 1978)
Maximum Width (mm)156Male (Williams 1984)
Broad Temperature RangeNoneSubtropical-Tropical
Broad Salinity RangeNoneTidal Limnetic-Euhaline

General Impacts

Callinectes bocourti is a fisheries species in its native range, but is considered less desirable than Callinectes sapidus (Blue Crab), because of its small size. It is not established in continental US waters, and has no reported impacts. However, researchers in the Gulf are concerned that if it becomes established, it could compete with the Blue Crab (USGS Center for Aquatic Resource Studies 2009).

Regional Distribution Map

Bioregion Region Name Year Invasion Status Population Status
CAR-III None 0 Native Estab
SA-IV None 0 Native Estab
CAR-II None 0 Native Estab
CAR-IV None 0 Native Estab
SA-II None 0 Native Estab
CAR-I Northern Yucatan, Gulf of Mexico, Florida Straits, to Middle Eastern Florida 1950 Def Unk
S190 Indian River 1973 Crypto Unk
CAR-VII Cape Hatteras to Mid-East Florida 1977 Crypto Unk
S045 _CDA_S045 (New) 1977 Crypto Unk
S080 Charleston Harbor 1977 Crypto Unk
S200 Biscayne Bay 1950 Crypto Unk
G170 West Mississippi Sound 1971 Def Unk
S196 _CDA_S196 (Cape Canaveral) 1968 Crypto Unk
S180 St. Johns River 2002 Crypto Unk
S183 _CDA_S183 (Daytona-St. Augustine) 2003 Crypto Unk
S175 _CDA_S175 (Nassau) 2003 Crypto Unk
G030 North Ten Thousand Islands 2005 Crypto Unk
CAR-VI None 0 Native Estab
S110 Broad River 1977 Crypto Unk
S090 Stono/North Edisto Rivers 2002 Crypto Unk
SA-III None 0 Native Estab
G150 Mobile Bay 2000 Def Unk

Occurrence Map

OCC_ID Author Year Date Locality Status Latitude Longitude


Barnes, Robert D. (1983) Invertebrate Zoology, Saunders, Philadelphia. Pp. 883

Gore, Robert H.; Grizzle, Raymond E. (1974) Studies on decapoda from the Indian River region of Florida. III. Callinectes bocourti A. Milne Edwards, 1979 (Decapoda, Portunidae) from the central East Coast of Florida, Crustaceana 27(3): 306-309

Grosholz, Edwin (2011) Encyclopedia of Biological Invasions, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles. Pp. 125-128

Norse, Elliott A. (1978) An experimental gradient analysis: hyposalinity as an 'upstress' distributional determinant for Caribbean portunid crabs, Biological Bulletin 155: 586-598

Perry, Harriet M. (1973) The occurrence of Callinectes bocourti (A. Milne Edwards, 1879) (Decapoda, Portunidae) in Biloxi Bay, Mississippi, U.S.A., Crustaceana 25(1): 110

Perry, Harriet; Yeager, David (2006) <missing title>, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory- University of Southern Mississiuppi, Ocean Springs MS. Pp. 8

Rathbun, Mary J. (1901) The Brachyura and Macrura of Porto Rico, Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission 20(2): 1-127

Rathbun, Mary J. (1930) The cancroid crabs of America of the families Euryalidae, Portunidae, Atelecyclidae, Cancridae, and Xanthidae, United States National Museum Bulletin 152: 1-609

U.S. National Museum of Natural History 2002-2021 Invertebrate Zoology Collections Database. <missing description>

USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2003-2022 Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, FL.

Williams, Austin B. (1984) Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs of the Atlantic Coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. Pp. <missing location>

Williams, Austin B.; Williams, David McN. (1981) Carolinian records for American Lobster, Homarus americanus, and tropical swimming crab, Callinectes bocourti, postulated means of dispersal, Fishery Bulletin 79(1): 192-198