Jonah Crab vs Stone Crab: What’s the Difference?

Written by August Buck
Published: March 25, 2022
Image Credit Process/Shutterstock.com
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Whether you are planning on consuming them or simply have an interest in crabs, there are some significant differences between a Jonah crab vs stone crab. But what might some of these differences be, and how might they affect your next seafood dinner?

In this article, we will compare and contrast two very similar species of crab. Given that these two types of crabs are cousins, you may not be able to tell them apart upon first glance. However, by the end of this article, you should have some grasp of how these two different creatures exist separately from one another. Let’s dive in and talk all about crabs now! 

Comparing Jonah Crab vs Stone Crab

jonah crab vs stone crab
While the size of their carapaces are similar, Jonah crabs weigh more than stone crabs on average.

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Jonah CrabStone Crab
Size6-7 inches; 12-20 ounces5-7 inches; 3-7 ounces
AppearanceOval shaped body in a reddish shade; claws are also red and evenly sized to one another. Very few spinesBrown, tan, and red in color; has black tipped claws that are asymmetrical in size. Tiny spines all over body and legs
Lifespan1-5 years5-8 years
BehaviorOften caught on accident in lobster traps; travels into shallower waters during warm months back out againDigs holes in mud and sand for protection; often harvested for their claws only and returned to the sea still alive 
Habitat and LocationEast Coast of the United States; prefers shallow waters with rocks and mud, and temperate watersGulf Coast of the United States and Mexico; hides among oyster reefs, grasses, and bays

Key Differences Between Jonah Crab vs Stone Crab

jonah crab vs stone crab
The claws of the stone crab are asymmetrical, while the claws of the Jonah crab are even to one another.

Process/Shutterstock.com

There are many key differences between Jonah crabs and stone crabs. While the size of their carapaces are similar, Jonah crabs weigh more than stone crabs on average. The claws of the stone crab are asymmetrical, while the claws of the Jonah crab are even to one another. Stone crabs also live longer on average compared to the lifespan of the Jonah crab. Finally, Jonah crabs reside along the east coast of the United States, while stone crabs live along the Gulf Coast. 

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

Jonah Crab vs Stone Crab: Size

jonah crab vs stone crab
The average stone crab weighs anywhere from three to 7 ounces, while Jonah crabs average 12 to 20 ounces in weight.

Lost_in_the_Midwest/Shutterstock.com

Given how similar in appearance Jonah crabs and stone crabs are, you may be able to tell the difference based on their size. However, both of these crabs grow anywhere from 5 to 7 inches, which means that you may not be able to tell the difference based on their carapace size alone. 

All this said, Jonah crabs outweigh stone crabs on average. The average stone crab weighs anywhere from three to 7 ounces, while Jonah crabs average 12 to 20 ounces in weight. This makes them more desirable for meals and commercial seafood production, even though both of these crabs are equally delicious! 

Jonah Crab vs Stone Crab: Location and Habitat

jonah crab vs stone crab
Jonah crabs enjoy temperate waters and prefer shallows, while stone crabs hide amongst oyster reefs and rocky areas.

alexsmaga/Shutterstock.com

One of the main differences between Jonah crabs and stone crabs is their location and habitat preferences. For example, Jonah crabs are caught all along the eastern coast of the United States, while stone crabs are found in the Gulf Coast and into the Gulf of Mexico. This also means that they have different habitat preferences as well. 

You may have already guessed this, but stone crabs prefer warmer waters compared to Jonah crabs. However, Jonah crabs enjoy temperate waters and prefer shallows, while stone crabs hide amongst oyster reefs and rocky areas. Juvenile stone crabs hide in long grasses found in bays and shallower areas. 

Jonah Crab vs Stone Crab: Appearance

jonah crab vs stone crab
Both Jonah crabs and stone crabs are red in color, though stone crabs often have tan or brown markings on their carapaces.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region / Creative Commons – License

The appearance of the Jonah crab and stone crab seems similar upon first glance. However, there are a few things you can look for in order to tell the differences between them. Both Jonah crabs and stone crabs are red in color, though stone crabs often have tan or brown markings on their carapaces. 

One of the main ways you can tell a stone crab from a Jonah crab is that stone crabs have asymmetrical claws, which means that one claw is far larger than the other. Jonah crabs have claws that are both the same size. The average stone crab is also covered in spines compared to the average Jonah crab. 

Jonah Crab vs Stone Crab: Behavior

jonah crab vs stone crab
Jonah crabs are frequently caught in lobster traps along the East Coast, while stone crabs enjoy hiding in shallow, muddy areas, often burrowing themselves deep into the sand or dirt.

iStock.com/connect11

While both of these crabs enjoy hiding out in shallow bays and waters, there are some differences in their behaviors. For example, Jonah crabs travel out to deeper waters during winter months, while stone crabs remain in shallows for their entire season. Another difference between these two is that stone crabs are harvested alive for their claws only, while Jonah crabs are harvested for their entire bodies. 

Jonah crabs are frequently caught in lobster traps along the East Coast, while stone crabs enjoy hiding in shallow, muddy areas, often burrowing themselves deep into the sand or dirt. This is why Jonah crabs are named Jonah crabs: just like Jonah and the whale, they are often caught where they shouldn’t be!

Jonah Crab vs Stone Crab: Lifespan

The final difference between Jonah crabs and stone crabs is their lifespan. Stone crabs outlive Jonah crabs by a few years on average, though little is known about Jonah crabs in general. However, studies estimate that stone crabs live an average of 5 to 8 years in the wild, while Jonah crabs only live 1 to 5 years in the wild.

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