It is the largest swimming crab found in British coastal waters, with a carapace width of up to 100 millimetres (3.9 in). The body is coated with short hairs, giving the animal a velvety texture, hence the common name. It is one of the major crab species for United Kingdom fisheries.
The velvet crab lives from southern Norway to Western Sahara in the North Sea and north Atlantic as well as western parts of the Mediterranean Sea, on rocky bottoms from the shoreline to a depth of about 65 metres (213 ft). The last pair of pereiopods are flattened to facilitate swimming.