Earlier this month, a Giant Japanese spider crab (Macrochera kaempferi) was donated to OEC by Izu Chuo Aqua Trading Co.,Ltd. OEC modelmaker Vince Rossi was searching for a large, intact specimen to use as a model for making a reproduction to hang in the National Museum of Natural History’s new Ocean Hall, which opens next year. Initially, Rossi thought he would have to use photographs for reference and sculpt the crab model by hand. “Sculpting takes more time and is more expensive,” said Rossi, “so I began searching for a specimen I could use as a mold. I didn’t think we would be this lucky.”
As luck would have it, he found the perfect specimen half way around the world. The giant Japanese spider crab can grow up to 3.5 to 4 meters long with their front legs and claws outstretched. But crabs of this size are rare and live about 2,000 feet under sea level. The specimen that Rossi found was 2.5 meters long, which is still a considerable size.
NMNH scientists are also excited about the donation. Smithsonian only has one specimen of this species in its collection, and its condition was never as good as this one. Dr. Rafael Lamaitre, chair of NMNH’s Invertebrate Zoology department, along with Cheryl Bright, collection manager for the same department, took samples of the crab’s flesh to freeze for future molecular DNA studies. They also documented the specimen for inclusion in NMNH’s collection.
After OEC has finished using the specimen to make the reproduction for the Ocean exhibit, it will go to the National Zoological Park, where flesh-eating beetles will clean all the soft tissue from the specimen, leaving only the hard exoskeleton. The specimen will then be moved to NMNH’s collections facility in Suitland, Maryland.
OEC modelmakers will be making other reproductions for the Ocean Hall, including an oarfish and a sunfish.
top photo: Vince Rossi positions the giant crab to tag each part before molding.
bottom photo: Dr. Rafael Lamaitre takes a sample from the giant crab.