Canon 30D, handheld
Mamiya 80mm macro at f16
Sunpak Auto 322 flash with custom softbox

1/200 second at ISO 250

marsh crab wharf crab Sesarma cinereum

During a week on North Topsail Island, I was fairly certain I was going to find some examples of the species seen here, a variant of marsh crab sometimes called a wharf crab, but better identified by its scientfic name of Sesarma cinereum. This one was found patrolling the dock just behind where we stayed and was carefully scooped up in a shallow container for a controlled portrait session. At the time, I didn't know she was carrying, and in fact only spotted the huge mass of eggs about halfway through the session, seeing as how they were held underneath her diminutive body. Naturally, once I'd seen them I changed position to get better detail images, such as the one seen here.

Those eggs may number from 5,000 to 13,000, according to my sources, and she will carry them for about a lunar cycle, or 28 days. Crustaceans often carry their eggs in their pleopods, which are little fins underneath their abdomens – you can see another example here. The crab's entire body was roughly the size of the top joint of my thumb, so a few of those eggs could have fit onto the head of a pin at the same time.

After the photo session, she was released back where I'd found her. I cannot vouch for whether she'll tell the kids about the experience.