Biological Invasions

, Volume 16, Issue 9, pp 1865–1877 | Cite as

Invasion of the Atlantic rock crab (Cancer irroratus) at high latitudes

  • Óskar Sindri Gíslason
  • Halldór P. Halldórsson
  • Marinó F. Pálsson
  • Snæbjörn Pálsson
  • Brynhildur Davíðsdóttir
  • Jörundur Svavarsson
Original Paper


With the increase in global oceanic trade the establishment of non-indigenous marine organisms has become a major environmental and economic problem worldwide. Recently, the Atlantic rock crab (Cancer irroratus) was reported in Icelandic waters, Eastern North Atlantic. This is the first record of this relatively large crab species outside its natural range, i.e. the east coast of North America. The crab was most likely transferred to Iceland as larvae in ballast water and has successfully established a reproducing population in Icelandic waters. The species is distributed along the southwestern- and western-coast of Iceland. Adult specimens are now common in Faxaflói Bay, Southwest Iceland, but with sporadic occurrences in western and northwestern Icelandic waters. The green crab (Carcinus maenas) and the spider crab (Hyas araneus) are the only native brachyuran decapod species commonly found in its new habitat, but despite its recent colonization the rock crab was the most abundant brachyuran in the areas studied in southwest Iceland. Egg bearing rock crab and green crab females were found from June to October, while egg bearing spider crab females were seen from July to December. In Southwest Iceland both rock crab and green crab larvae were abundant in mid-summer but rare in both spring and autumn, which is opposite of what was observed for the spider crab. The size and abundance of adult crabs, their reproductive conditions, and occurrence of all larval stages, indicate that the Atlantic rock crab has successfully colonized Iceland.


Cancer irroratus Carcinus maenas Hyas araneus Decapoda Colonization Iceland 



We wish to thank Pálmi Dungal for bringing the Atlantic rock crab in Hvalfjörður to our attention. We thank Guðjón Már Sigurðsson for providing plankton samples from the Westfjords and North Iceland. The manuscript has been improved by comments from the editor and anonymous reviewers. Grants from the Icelandic Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture, the University of Iceland Research Fund and the Suðurnes Regional Development Fund are acknowledged.

Supplementary material

10530_2013_632_MOESM1_ESM.eps (7 kb)
Appendix 1 Average CPUE (±standard error) of rock crab (Cancer irroratus) on the transect in Hvalfjörður in the sampling years 2007–2009. (EPS 7 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Óskar Sindri Gíslason
    • 1
    • 2
  • Halldór P. Halldórsson
    • 2
  • Marinó F. Pálsson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Snæbjörn Pálsson
    • 1
  • Brynhildur Davíðsdóttir
    • 3
  • Jörundur Svavarsson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Life and Environmental SciencesUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland
  2. 2.The University of Iceland’s Research Centre in SuðurnesUniversity of IcelandSandgerðiIceland
  3. 3.Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Life and Environmental Sciences and Department of EconomicsUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland

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