red crab

Photo of lavender-colored red crab is courtesy of Marusan Ocean Foods

A good omen, a bad diet, or merely some kind of mutation caused by some unknown factor?

These were some of the reactions among wholesalers in Japan when one of a shipment of red king crabs turned out to be lavender.

"I’ve been dealing with crabs for 25 years, but this is the first time to see that color," Kenetsu Mikami, president of Marusan Ocean Foods, told the Japanese-language Hokkaido Doshin. "It could be a good omen."


What a red king crab is supposed to look like. Credit: Wikipedia

The crabs were caught off Russia in the Bering Sea and shipped to Hokkaido. Red king crabs are found in the Bering Sea and near the Aleutian Islands, along the coast of the Gulf of Alaska, and south to British Columbia, Canada. Also, there are populations from Hokkaido, Japan, to Cape Olyutorsk, Russia. They’re widely consumed around the world.

According to in Australia, experts at a research center in Hokkaido believe the peculiar coloration was "the effect of its diet or possibly a mutation causing a lack of pigment."

There has been some debate on the Internet, with some insisting that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is the most likely explanation.

But perhaps a natural mutation causing a pigment change is the most likely explanation. This occurs in rare cases among lobsters, which have been found to be blue, calico colored, two-toned, white, and so on.

The lavender-colored red crab was kept alive and placed on display at Marusan Ocean Foods for observation.

After all, who would be brave enough to eat the unusual crustacean?

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