A giant Japanese spider crab has gone on display at Blackpool Sea Life Centre.
The huge crustacean, named Big Daddy, has a 2.7m/9' claw span and Sea Life says this makes him easily the biggest crab in Britain.
Sea Life’s colossal crab was destined for a Japanese fish market until a reprieve was negotiated and he was flown to the UK instead. He has spent a couple of months in quarantine in Dorset but is now ready to step – sideways of course – into the public arena.
The Japanese spider crab has a 50-60 year lifespan, although there have been reports of them living 100 years. They can achieve a claw span of 12' - that's enough to straddle a car!
Blackpool Sea Life marine experts have drained and re-plumbed one of their larger tropical tanks to keep its 20,000 l. of seawater super chilled instead of heated.
"It’s one of our most dramatic displays with floor to ceiling windows on two sides and special bubble windows on another," said displays supervisor Scott Blacker.
"People will be able to stand toe to claw with Big Daddy and really get the measure of him, while youngsters will be able to put their heads in the bubble window and try and get a face-to-face encounter."
He is to join a smaller female Japanese spider crab, which recently laid eggs and staff are hoping he will soon become a 'daddy' for real.
"We have brought in this full size male to be sure he is mature and we hope he will father some eggs in the future", said Scott Blacker. "First we will settle the male at his normal cool 9° temperature then after a few weeks we will add a female and slowly raise the temperature of the tank by a few degrees. This will mimic life in the wild where they move to shallower warmer water to breed.
"We hope this will trigger her to lay eggs again. Then we will hopefully get the fertile eggs we need to have a chance at raising the offspring. We’ve had some major breakthroughs in the breeding and rearing difficult species recently, including squid, octopus and weedy seadragons, but this is by far our most ambitious breeding project. Long-term it would be great to be able to give information on how to breed these creatures to reduce the pressure on the wild animals as food."
Japanese spider crabs are the largest in the world. They're found in deep waters off the Japanese island of Honshu and feed mainly on smaller crustaceans and dead fish.
The new arrival has been named after the late wrestler Big Daddy, whose real name was Shirley Crabtree, and who was very popular with wrestling fans in Blackpool.
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