HOLDEN BEACH, N.C. (WECT) - Dean Bowling has pulled in thousands of crabs from thousands of crab pots during his decades-long career as a commercial fisherman.
This week, for the first time in his life, he caught one that caused him to stop what he was doing and call his daughter, Jillian.
"'You're not gonna believe what I caught in the trap today,'" Jillian Bowling recalled her dad saying. "So I said, 'Send me a picture' and he sent me a picture and I could not believe my eyes. I called him immediately and said, 'Do you know what you have? That's amazing. That's one in a billion.'"
What Dean had was a blue crab that was entirely blue.
Jillian, who grew up on her dad’s boat and continues to study marine life, was not being hyperbolic with her one in a billion comment.
"The blue crab that we showed today is actually a one in a billion chance," she said. "This is a genetic mutation that occurs, very rare."
Much like chameleons or flounder, crabs have chromatophores which allow them to change color and fool predators.
Jillian said a regular blue crab can change from dark green to light green but the blue crab Dean caught has an excess of blue protein in his chromatophores, causing the entire crab to be blue.
"I have seen crabs with albinism — patches of white or their whole shell will be white — but I've never seen one like this before in my life," Jillian said.
The Bowlings are going to keep the rare crab they’ve named Blue in one of their crab tanks. Jillian said Blue will be fed well, mate with female crabs and have no predators for the rest of its life, which could be another 8-to-10 years.
A South Brunswick High School graduate, Jillian will soon embark on a career as a healthy living director for elementary school children. While that work will be focused mostly on teaching kids how to eat and live healthy and grow their own vegetables, Jillian's knowledge of marine life is equaled only by her continued interest in it.
“There’s a lot of people that live at the beach. They see things on the beach and they’re like, ‘Oh, I wonder what that is?’” Jillian said. “I’m like, ‘I can tell you. I know what that is.’ I love doing that. I love being able to share information about it because we live here and it’s a beautiful ecosystem. We wouldn’t be here without the ocean.”