Dungeness Crab vs Snow Crab: What’s the Difference?

Written by August Buck
Updated: October 24, 2022
© Jennifer Nicole Buchanan/Shutterstock.com
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Whether you are interested in consuming them for your next meal or just want to learn more about their life cycles, there are a few key differences between dungeness crab vs snow crab. While both of these crabs are delicious and used in different ways in the culinary world, how do they differ from one another as living animals?

In this article, we will address all of the differences between snow crab vs. dungeness crab, including their physical appearances and preferred habitat. We will also address their behavioral differences and their average lifespans in the wild. Let’s get started and learn all about crabs now! 

Comparing Dungeness Crab vs Snow Crab

dungeness crab vs snow crab
The body of the dungeness crab grows larger than the body of a snow crab.

©A-Z-Animals.com

Dungeness CrabSnow Crab
Size2-3 pounds; 8-10 inches not including legs3-4 pounds; 6-8 inches not including legs
AppearanceShort legs and large claws; orange or rust-colored shells in an oval shape, and they may even be purpleElongated legs and smaller claws; often spotted on their shells due to age. Red or orange when they are young
Lifespan8-13 years15-20 years
BehaviorMolts multiple times in a season and enjoys shallow, sandy areas of the coastline; lives up to 2000 feet deep Resides at 1000 feet deep or less; enjoys burrowing in mud and molts during their adolescence but less in adulthood
Habitat and LocationWestern United States and England; temperate ocean watersNorthern seas, both Atlantic and Pacific; cold temperatures

Key Differences Between Dungeness Crab vs Snow Crab

dungeness crab vs snow crab
Snow crabs also outlive dungeness crabs by 3-7 years on average.

©Nick Kashenko/Shutterstock.com

There are many key differences between dungeness crabs and snow crabs. The body of the dungeness crab grows larger than the body of a snow crab. However, snow crab legs are much longer than the legs of a dungeness crab. Snow crabs also outlive dungeness crabs by 3-7 years on average. Finally, the habitat preferences and geographical locations of these crabs differ greatly.

Let’s talk more about these differences in more detail now. 

Dungeness Crab vs Snow Crab: Size

The size and weight of dungeness crabs vs snow crabs is exceedingly interesting. For example, dungeness crabs weigh 2-3 pounds on average, while snow crabs weigh 3 to 4 pounds on average. However, snow crabs have a smaller body overall compared to the body of a dungeness crab. 

So why do snow crabs weigh more than dungeness crabs on average? This is likely due to the fact that snow crabs have much longer legs compared to the legs of a dungeness crab. However, the body of a snow crab grows no larger than 6-8 inches, while the body of a dungeness crab averages 8-10 inches long. 

dungeness crab vs snow crab
Dungeness crabs weigh 2-3 pounds on average, while snow crabs weigh 3 to 4 pounds on average.

©Yellowj/Shutterstock.com

Dungeness Crab vs Snow Crab: Location and Habitat

A huge difference between dungeness crabs and snow crabs lies in their geographical locations and habitat preferences. You can only find snow crabs in northern seas, including the Pacific and the Atlantic, while dungeness crabs live in more temperate locations, often off the coast of California or England. In fact, dungeness crabs were named because they were first discovered in the Dungeness region of England!

The habitat preferences of these crabs differ from one another as well. While they both enjoy burrowing in mud or sandy waters, the dungeness crab is found at much deeper depths compared to the snow crab. Plus, dungeness crabs enjoy estuaries and shallow waters as well, while snow crabs prefer rockier locations overall. 

Dungeness Crab vs Snow Crab: Appearance

dungeness crab vs snow crab
Snow crabs are only orange or red in color when they are young, while dungeness crabs remain a rusty orange for the majority of their life.

©Kondratuk Aleksei/Shutterstock.com

You may not believe it, but you should be able to tell the dungeness crab apart from the snow crab upon first glance. This is because the snow crab has much longer legs compared to the legs of a dungeness crab. Plus, their colorations differ from one another, especially as both of these crabs age. Let’s talk more about this now. 

Snow crabs are only orange or red in color when they are young, while dungeness crabs remain a rusty orange for the majority of their life. In addition, dungeness crabs can have purple colorations, while snow crabs gain an olive sheen or darker spots as they get older. This is often a sign of a good and tasty crab, should you be interested in eating snow crab! 

Dungeness Crab vs Snow Crab: Behavior

dungeness crab vs snow crab
The dungeness crab lives an average lifespan of 8 to 13 years, while the snow crab lives an average lifespan of 15 to 20 years.

©Justin Kral/Shutterstock.com

Both dungeness crabs and snow crabs have fairly similar behaviors, but there are a few differences between the two. For example, dungeness crabs molt frequently in a single year, while snow crabs molt during their adolescence and less into their adulthood. Snow crabs also enjoy much colder temperatures than dungeness crabs do. 

Dungeness Crab vs Snow Crab: Lifespan

A final difference between snow crabs and dungeness crabs is their overall lifespan in the wild. While both of these crabs are captured and consumed as part of the fishing industry, the snow crab has a longer lifespan on average compared to the dungeness crab. 

The Dungeness crab lives an average lifespan of 8 to 13 years, while the snow crab lives an average lifespan of 15 to 20 years. This is a fairly significant lifespan difference between these two crabs, though it is rare for either of these two species to live beyond five to seven years total.

Dungeness Crab vs Snow Crab in Cooking

If you are considering eating Dungeness crab vs snow crab in terms of taste the Dungeness crabs tend to be sweeter compared to the mild flavor of a snow crab. However, that doesn’t mean that snow crabs don’t taste as good. If you want to get the most flavor out of a snow crab, then you need to go for the leg meat and not the body meat. The legs tend to have a more intense flavor.

If you are reaching for crab meat, you are most likely going to go for the legs. However, the main difference between Dungeness crab vs snow crab is their leg size. Dungeness crabs have smaller and curved legs whereas snow crabs have meatier legs.

That usually means Dungeness crabs will provide less substance than their counterparty. Although a Dungeness single crab can contain more meat per weight than a snow crab and have a sweeter flavor, a snow crab will provide more meat per weight than a Dungeness crab.


The Featured Image

Largest Crabs - Dungeness Crab 
Dungeness Crabs are one of the larger species of crabs.
© Jennifer Nicole Buchanan/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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