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A term describing a growth state of the crab, during which time it casts off its shell in order to grow one that's larger. Soon after the crab sheds its shell, its skin hardens into a new one. During those few days before the new shell hardens, these crustaceans are referred to as 'soft-shell' crabs. in the United States, the blue crab (found along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts) is the species most commonly eaten in its soft-shell state.