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Concept: Crab


Crustaceans can exert a greater force using their claws than many animals can with other appendages. Furthermore, in decapods, the chela is a notable organ with multifunctional roles. The coconut crab, Birgus latro, is the largest terrestrial crustacean and has a remarkable ability to lift weights up to approximately 30 kg. However, the pinching force of this crab’s chelae has not been previously investigated. In the present study, we measured the pinching force of the chelae in 29 wild coconut crabs (33-2,120 g in body weight). The maximum force ranged from 29.4 to 1,765.2 N, and showed a strong positive correlation with body mass. Based on the correlation between pinching force and body weight, the force potentially exerted by the largest crab (4 kg weight) reported in a previous study would be 3300 N, which greatly exceeds the pinching force of other crustaceans as well as the bite force of most terrestrial predators. The mighty claw is a terrestrial adaptation that is not only a weapon, which can be used to prevent predator attack and inhibit competitors, but is also a tool to hunt other terrestrial organisms with rigid exteriors, aiding in these organisms to be omnivores.

Concepts: Decapoda, Caroline Island, Crab, Anomura, Coenobitidae, Coconut crab, Mass


Symbiont shift is rare in obligate mutualisms because both the partners are reciprocally dependent on and specialized to each other. In the obligate accommodation-transportation mutualism between walking corals and sipunculans, however, an unusual saltatory symbiont shift was discovered. In shallow waters of southern Japan, an undescribed hermit crab species was found living in corallums of solitary scleractinian corals of the genera Heterocyathus and Heteropsammia, replacing the usual sipunculan symbiont. We described the hermit crab as a new species Diogenes heteropsammicola (Decapoda, Anomura, Diogenidae), and explored its association with the walking corals. This hermit crab species obligately inhabits the coiled cavity of the corals, and was easily distinguished from other congeneric species by the exceedingly slender chelipeds and ambulatory legs, and the symmetrical telson. Observations of behavior in aquaria showed that the new hermit crab, like the sipunculan, carries the host coral and prevents the coral from being buried. This is an interesting case in which an organism phylogenetically distant from Sipuncula takes over the symbiotic role in association with a walking coral. The hermit crab species is unique in that its lodging is a living solitary coral that grows with the hermit crab in an accommodation-transportation mutualism.

Concepts: Algae, Species, Hermit crab, Crab, Mutualism, Decapoda, Coral, Symbiosis


Every year, millions of pots and traps are lost in crustacean fisheries around the world. Derelict fishing gear has been found to produce several harmful environmental and ecological effects, however socioeconomic consequences have been investigated less frequently. We analyze the economic effects of a substantial derelict pot removal program in the largest estuary of the United States, the Chesapeake Bay. By combining spatially resolved data on derelict pot removals with commercial blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) harvests and effort, we show that removing 34,408 derelict pots led to significant gains in gear efficiency and an additional 13,504 MT in harvest valued at US $21.3 million-a 27% increase above that which would have occurred without removals. Model results are extended to a global analysis where it is seen that US $831 million in landings could be recovered annually by removing less than 10% of the derelict pots and traps from major crustacean fisheries. An unfortunate common pool externality, the degradation of marine environments is detrimental not only to marine organisms and biota, but also to those individuals and communities whose livelihoods and culture depend on profitable and sustainable marine resource use.

Concepts: Callinectes, Portunidae, United States, Estuary, Crab, Maryland, Chesapeake Bay, Blue crab


In some species males increase their reproductive success by forcing females to copulate with them, usually by grasping the female or pinning her to the ground to prevent her from escaping. Here we report an example of males coercing copulation by trapping a female in a confined space. During mate-searching, female Uca mjoebergi fiddler crabs visit males and choose whether or not to enter their burrow for inspection. Males typically enter the burrow first and we found that 71% of females will follow him down and 54% decide to stay and mate. However, some males use an alternative tactic where he will wait for the female to enter the burrow first, after which he traps her inside. Although a significantly lower percentage of females will enter a burrow following this behaviour (41%), upon entry 79% females that enter will become trapped and almost all of these females (90%) produce a clutch of eggs. Our observations suggest that males are able to gain fertilisations from females that may not have remained in the burrow by trapping them and coercing them to mate.

Concepts: Female, Ocypodoidea, Uca mjobergi, Sex, Ocypodidae, Reproduction, Fiddler crab, Crab


Recent scientific interest following the “discovery” of lithodid crabs around Antarctica has centred on a hypothesis that these crabs might be poised to invade the Antarctic shelf if the recent warming trend continues, potentially decimating its native fauna. This “invasion hypothesis” suggests that decapod crabs were driven out of Antarctica 40-15 million years ago and are only now returning as “warm” enough habitats become available. The hypothesis is based on a geographically and spatially poor fossil record of a different group of crabs (Brachyura), and examination of relatively few Recent lithodid samples from the Antarctic slope. In this paper, we examine the existing lithodid fossil record and present the distribution and biogeographic patterns derived from over 16,000 records of Recent Southern Hemisphere crabs and lobsters. Globally, the lithodid fossil record consists of only two known specimens, neither of which comes from the Antarctic. Recent records show that 22 species of crabs and lobsters have been reported from the Southern Ocean, with 12 species found south of 60°S. All are restricted to waters warmer than 0°C, with their Antarctic distribution limited to the areas of seafloor dominated by Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW). Currently, CDW extends further and shallower onto the West Antarctic shelf than the known distribution ranges of most lithodid species examined. Geological evidence suggests that West Antarctic shelf could have been available for colonisation during the last 9,000 years. Distribution patterns, species richness, and levels of endemism all suggest that, rather than becoming extinct and recently re-invading from outside Antarctica, the lithodid crabs have likely persisted, and even radiated, on or near to Antarctic slope. We conclude there is no evidence for a modern-day “crab invasion”. We recommend a repeated targeted lithodid sampling program along the West Antarctic shelf to fully test the validity of the “invasion hypothesis”.

Concepts: Decapoda, Charles Darwin, Crab, Antarctic, Pacific Ocean, Crustacean, Southern Ocean, Antarctica


To efficiently provide an animal with relevant information, the design of its visual system should reflect the distribution of natural signals and the animal’s tasks. In many behavioural contexts, however, we know comparatively little about the moment-to-moment information-processing challenges animals face in their daily lives. In predator avoidance, for instance, we lack an accurate description of the natural signal stream and its value for risk assessment throughout the prey’s defensive behaviour. We characterized the visual signals generated by real, potentially predatory events by video-recording bird approaches towards an Uca vomeris colony. Using four synchronized cameras allowed us to simultaneously monitor predator avoidance responses of crabs. We reconstructed the signals generated by dangerous and non-dangerous flying animals, identified the cues that triggered escape responses and compared them with those triggering responses to dummy predators. Fiddler crabs responded to a combination of multiple visual cues (including retinal speed, elevation and visual flicker) that reflect the visual signatures of distinct bird and insect behaviours. This allowed crabs to discriminate between dangerous and non-dangerous events. The results demonstrate the importance of measuring natural sensory signatures of biologically relevant events in order to understand biological information processing and its effects on behavioural organization.

Concepts: Retina, Behavior, Ocypodidae, Animal, Fiddler crab, Ecology, Predation, Crab


Predator avoidance behaviour costs time, energy and opportunities, and prey animals need to balance these costs with the risk of predation. The necessary decisions to strike this balance are often based on information that is inherently imperfect and incomplete due to the limited sensory capabilities of prey animals. Our knowledge, however, about how prey animals solve the challenging task of restricting their responses to the most dangerous stimuli in their environment, is very limited. Using dummy predators, we examined the contribution of visual flicker to the predator avoidance response of the fiddler crab Uca vomeris. The results illustrate that crabs let purely black or purely white dummies approach significantly closer than black-and-white flickering dummies. We show that this effect complements other factors that modulate escape timing such as retinal speed and the crab’s distance to its burrow, and is therefore not exclusively due to an earlier detection of the flickering signal. By combining and adjusting a range of imperfect response criteria in a way that relates to actual threats in their natural environment, prey animals may be able to measure risk and adjust their responses more efficiently - even under difficult or noisy sensory conditions.

Concepts: Prey drive, Ocypodidae, Ecology, Predation, Crab, Fiddler crab


To study ecdysteroid signaling during limb regeneration, we have applied RNAi (dsRNA) mediated silencing to EcR/RXR, the genes encoding the ecdysteroid receptor heterodimer, in the fiddler crab Uca pugilator. We injected RNAi into the blastemal chamber during early limb regeneration. Silencing was evaluated by knockdown in receptor transcript abundance, and disruption was evaluated by changes in growth rate and morphology of limb regenerates. q-PCR results indicated a 50% drop in transcript abundance 48h post injection in both RNAi (dsEcR/dsRXR) injected ipsilateral and uninjected contralateral blastemas in experimental animals relative to controls. EcR/RXR transcript levels further decreased over time. Several phenotypes were associated with knockdown. The experimental blastema failed to develop; microscopic examination of the arrested blastema revealed an absence of the cuticular ingrowths characteristic of the beginnings of limb segmentation and cell proliferation assays revealed that the arrested blastema had few dividing cells. Ecdysteroid levels were also lowered in experimental animals; given the bilateral effects of RNAi on limb buds in experimental animals, these results suggest RNAi had a systemic effect. Although hormone titers in experimental animals rose to comparable control levels during the late proecdysial phase of limb regeneration, most experimental crabs failed to molt and died. The overall failure to molt indicates that RNAi receptor knockdown has long-term effects. The combined effects of receptor knockdown indicate that, although circulating ecdysteroid titers are normally low during basal limb bud growth, signaling via the ecdysteroid receptor pathway is necessary for establishment of blastemal cell proliferation and development in the regenerating limbs of U. pugilator.

Concepts: Ocypodidae, Uca pugilator, Protein, Blastema, Gene, Fiddler crab, Developmental biology, Crab


BACKGROUND: Ontogenetic variation in salinity adaptation has been noted for the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, which uses the export strategy for larval development: females migrate from the estuaries to the coast to spawn, larvae develop in the ocean, and postlarvae (megalopae) colonize estuarine areas. We hypothesized that C. sapidus larvae may be stenohaline and have limited osmoregulatory capacity which compromises their ability to survive in lower salinity waters. We tested this hypothesis using hatchery-raised larvae that were traceable to specific life stages. In addition, we aimed to understand the possible involvement of AQP-1 in salinity adaptation during larval development and during exposure to hyposalinity. RESULTS: A full-length cDNA sequence of aquaporin (GenBank JQ970426) was isolated from the hypodermis of the blue crab, C. sapidus, using PCR with degenerate primers and 5[PRIME] and 3[PRIME] RACE. The open reading frame of CasAQP-1 consists of 238 amino acids containing six helical structures and two NPA motifs for the water pore. The expression pattern of CasAQP-I was ubiquitous in cDNAs from all tissues examined, although higher in the hepatopancreas, thoracic ganglia, abdominal muscle, and hypodermis and lower in the antennal gland, heart, hemocytes, ovary, eyestalk, brain, hindgut, Y-organs, and gill. Callinectes larvae differed in their capacity to molt in hyposalinity, as those at earlier stages from Zoea (Z) 1 to Z4 had lower molting rates than those from Z5 onwards, as compared to controls kept in 30 ppt water. No difference was found in the survival of larvae held at 15 and 30 ppt. CasAQP-1 expression differed with ontogeny during larval development, with significantly higher expression at Z1-2, compared to other larval stages. The exposure to 15 ppt affected larval-stage dependent CasAQP-1 expression which was significantly higher in Z2- 6 stages than the other larval stages. CONCLUSIONS: We report the ontogenetic variation in CasAQP-1 expression during the larval development of C. sapidus and the induction of its expression at early larval stages in the exposure of hyposalinity. However, it remains to be determined if the increase in CasAQP-1 expression at later larval stages may have a role in adaptation to hyposalinity.

Concepts: Crab, Callinectes, DNA, Insect, Portunidae, Larva, Blue crab, Developmental biology


Recent investigations have demonstrated that unusually ‘hairy’ yeti crabs within the family Kiwaidae associate with two predominant filamentous bacterial families, the Epsilon and Gammaproteobacteria. These analyses, however, were based on samples collected from a single body region, the setae of pereopods. To more thoroughly investigate the microbiome associated with Kiwa puravida, a yeti crab species from Costa Rica, we utilized barcoded 16S rRNA amplicon pyrosequencing, as well as microscopy and terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. Results indicate that, indeed, the bacterial community on the pereopods is far less diverse than on the rest of the body (Shannon indices ranged from 1.30-2.02 and 2.22-2.66, respectively). Similarly, the bacterial communities associated with juveniles and adults were more complex than previously recognized, with as many as 46 bacterial families represented. Ontogenetic differences in the microbial community, from egg to juvenile to adult, included a dramatic under-representation of the Helicobacteraceae and higher abundances of both Thiotrichaceae and Methylococcaceae for the eggs, which paralleled patterns observed in another bacteria-crustacean symbiosis. The degree to which abiotic and biotic feedbacks influence the bacterial community on the crabs is still not known, but predictions suggest that both the local environment and host-derived factors influence the establishment and maintenance of microbes associated with the surfaces of aquatic animals.

Concepts: Kiwa hirsuta, Crustacean, Archaea, Microorganism, Costa Rica, Microbiology, Bacteria, Crab