We may leave for a while fish possessing backbones, ribs, and other parts of great delight to osteologists, and turn our attention to those strange creatures which carry their skeletons on their back, changing them when they grow too small, dropping off a leg here or a claw there when it seemeth them good, growing another in due course, and generally behaving in an eccentric and altogether preposterous fashion. In short, as Mr. Micawber might have said in one of his joyous bursts of confidence, I refer to the lobster and the crab ; akin to which are the delicate prawns and homely shrimps.
The crab of annoying habits the sea angler will meet many a time and oft ; but now we will consider him in a different light—as a creature destined to afford sport and food for the human race, and not merely as an aggravating, bait-consuming nuisance.
A considerable volume might be written on the crabs of the world. Probably the most remarkable-looking member of the family is the King Crab, of Eastern seas. In general appearance he resembles a round, shallow, down-turned bowl with a spike sticking out from underneath it. The Malays are reported to use the King Crab's tail for pointing their arrows and spears, chiefly because the wound inflicted by an instrument so tipped is considerably more unpleasant than the clean cut made by a steel weapon. Place a little poison on the crab's tail, and the weapon is still more effectual. Tasmania, also, rejoices in some remarkable crabs, the claws of which are so large, travellers say, that they can take hold of the thigh of a man.
Some crabs are all body ; others are all legs—to wit, the spider crab, which is sometimes captured on English coasts. Everyone, from the reader of boys' books to the student of Mr. Rider Haggard's romances, has heard of land crabs of various kinds, some of which will dispose of a corpse or a cocoanut with equal facility, and, though they live on shore, occasionally take a saltwater bath.