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Concept: Decapoda


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


Biogenic amines, particularly serotonin, are recognised to play an important role in controlling the aggression of invertebrates, whereas the effect of neurohormones is still underexplored. The crustacean Hyperglycemic Hormone (cHH) is a multifunctional member of the eyestalk neuropeptide family. We expect that this neuropeptide influences aggression either directly, by controlling its expression, or indirectly, by mobilizing the energetic stores needed for the increased activity of an animal. Our study aims at testing such an influence and the possible reversion of hierarchies in the red swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, as a model organism. Three types of pairs of similarly sized males were formed: (1) ‘control pairs’ (CP, n = 8): both individuals were injected with a phosphate saline solution (PBS); (2) ‘reinforced pairs’ (RP, n = 9): the alpha alone was injected with native cHH, and the beta with PBS; (3) ‘inverted pairs’ (IP, n = 9): the opposite of (2). We found that, independently of the crayfish’s prior social experience, cHH injections induced (i) the expression of dominance behaviour, (ii) higher glycemic levels, and (iii) lower time spent motionless. In CP and RP, fight intensity decreased with the establishment of dominance. On the contrary, in IP, betas became increasingly likely to initiate and escalate fights and, consequently, increased their dominance till a temporary reversal of the hierarchy. Our results demonstrate, for the first time, that, similarly to serotonin, cHH enhances individual aggression, up to reverse, although transitorily, the hierarchical rank. New research perspectives are thus opened in our intriguing effort of understanding the role of cHH in the modulation of agonistic behaviour in crustaceans.

Concepts: Arthropod, Hierarchy, Crustacean, Procambarus clarkii, Crayfish, Decapoda, Cambaridae, Procambarus


Decapod crustaceans exhibit considerable variation in fertilisation strategies, ranging from pervasive single paternity to the near-ubiquitous presence of multiple paternity, and such knowledge of mating systems and behaviour are required for the informed management of commercially-exploited marine fisheries. We used genetic markers to assess the paternity of individual broods in the European lobster, Homarus gammarus, a species for which paternity structure is unknown. Using 13 multiplexed microsatellite loci, three of which are newly described in this study, we genotyped 10 eggs from each of 34 females collected from an Atlantic peninsula in the south-western United Kingdom. Single reconstructed paternal genotypes explained all observed progeny genotypes in each of the 34 egg clutches, and each clutch was fertilised by a different male. Simulations indicated that the probability of detecting multiple paternity was in excess of 95% if secondary sires account for at least a quarter of the brood, and in excess of 99% where additional sire success was approximately equal. Our results show that multiple paternal fertilisations are either absent, unusual, or highly skewed in favour of a single male among H. gammarus in this area. Potential mechanisms upholding single paternal fertilisation are discussed, along with the prospective utility of parentage assignments in evaluations of hatchery stocking and other fishery conservation approaches in light of this finding.

Concepts: Genetics, Crustacean, Shrimp, Decapoda, Lobster, European lobster, Homarus, True lobsters


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, Symbiosis, Coral, Crab, Decapoda, Mutualism, Hermit 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: Crustacean, Pacific Ocean, Crab, Antarctica, Charles Darwin, Decapoda, Southern Ocean, Antarctic


Euryhaline decapod crustaceans possess an efficient regulation apparatus located in the gill epithelia, providing a high adaptation potential to varying environmental abiotic conditions. Even though many studies focussed on the osmoregulatory capacity of the gills, acid-base regulatory mechanisms have obtained much less attention. In the present study, underlying principles and effects of elevated pCO(2) on acid-base regulatory patterns were investigated in the green crab Carcinus maenas acclimated to diluted seawater. In gill perfusion experiments, all investigated gills 4-9 were observed to up-regulate the pH of the hemolymph by 0.1-0.2 units. Anterior gills, especially gill 4, were identified to be most efficient in the equivalent proton excretion rate. Ammonia excretion rates mirrored this pattern among gills, indicating a linkage between both processes. In specimen exposed to elevated pCO(2) levels for at least 7days, mimicking a future ocean scenario as predicted until the year 2300, hemolymph K(+) and ammonia concentrations were significantly elevated, and an increased ammonia excretion rate was observed. A detailed quantitative gene expression analysis revealed that upon elevated pCO(2) exposure, mRNA levels of transcripts hypothesized to be involved in ammonia and acid-base regulation (Rhesus-like protein, membrane-bound carbonic anhydrase, Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase) were affected predominantly in the non-osmoregulating anterior gills.

Concepts: DNA, Scientific method, Gene expression, Decapoda, Portunidae, Carcinus maenas, Portunoidea, Euryhaline


Haemocyanin (Hc) is a copper-containing respiratory protein, floating freely dissolved in the hemolymph of many arthropod species. A typical haemocyanin is a hexamer or oligohexamer of six identical or similar subunits, with a molecular mass around 75 kDa each. In the crustaceans, the haemocyanins appear to be restricted to the remipedes and the malacostracans. We have investigated the haemocyanins of two freshwater shrimps, the Amano shrimp Caridina multidentata and the bamboo shrimp Atyopsis moluccensis. We obtained three full-length and one partial cDNA sequences of haemocyanin subunits from the Amano shrimp, which were assigned to the α- and γ-types of decapod haemocyanin subunits. Three complete and two partial haemocyanin cDNA sequences were obtained from the bamboo shrimp, which represent subunit types α, β and γ. This is the first time that sequences of all three subunit types of the decapod haemocyanins were obtained from a single species. However, mass spectrometry analyses identified only α- and γ-type subunits, suggesting that a β-subunit is not a major component of the native haemocyanin of the bamboo shrimp. Phylogenetic and molecular clock analyses showed that malacostracan haemocyanins commenced to diversify into distinct subunit types already ~515 million years ago. β-subunits diverged first, followed by α- and γ-type subunits ~396 million years ago. The haemocyanins of phyllocarids and peracarids form distinct clades within the α/γ-cluster. Within the Caridea, an early divergence of distinct α-type subunits occurred ~200 MYA. The tree of the γ-subunits suggests a common clade of the Caridea (shrimps) and Penaeidae (prawns).

Concepts: Arthropod, Crustacean, Prawn, Shrimp, Caridea, Decapoda, Malacostraca, Caridina multidentata


The distribution of total arsenic in different portions of Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus L, Crustacea) was studied both in fresh samples and after a boiling process. All individuals (n = 80) were selected of medium standard commercial size (13-15 cm). The highest mean concentrations (26.86 ± 1.57 mg/kg wet weight) were found in the raw brown meat of the crustacean, probably due to its detoxification role, while the lowest mean values (15.97 ± 0.85 mg/kg wet weight) were in the raw exoskeleton. The raw white meat reported mean values of 16.09 ± 0.61 mg/kg w.w. The levels of arsenic contamination detected in the boiled portions showed a significant (p < 0.01) decrease compared to the raw portions, as a consequence of solubilization phenomena. In fact, a large amount of arsenic from raw lobsters was transferred to the corresponding boiling broth. In the most common consumed portion, the white meat, only few losses (7.22 %) in total arsenic content were observed compared to the raw portion.

Concepts: Arthropod, Crustacean, Decapoda, Lobster, North Sea, Exoskeleton, Norway lobster, Langostino


The zoeal and the megalopal stages of the land hermit crab Coenobita violascens Heller, 1862 are described and illustrated from laboratory-reared material, and compared with larvae of nine other described coenobitid species. The larvae developed through four planktonic zoeal stages to the megalopal stage. Coenobita violascens had characteristics of zoeal pleomeres and megalopal antennules typical of those found in other Coenobita species, excluding C. brevimanus. 

Concepts: Crustacean, Crab, Decapoda, Coenobitidae, Anomura, Coenobita, Hermit crab, Hermit crabs


We present the first global assessment of extinction risk for a major group of freshwater invertebrates, caridean shrimps. The risk of extinction for all 763 species was assessed using the IUCN Red List criteria that include geographic ranges, habitats, ecology and past and present threats. The Indo-Malayan region holds over half of global species diversity, with a peak in Indo-China and southern China. Shrimps primarily inhabit flowing water; however, a significant subterranean component is present, which is more threatened than the surface fauna. Two species are extinct with a further 10 possibly extinct, and almost one third of species are either threatened or Near Threatened (NT). Threats to freshwater shrimps include agricultural and urban pollution impact over two-thirds of threatened and NT species. Invasive species and climate change have the greatest overall impact of all threats (based on combined timing, scope and severity of threats).

Concepts: Plant, Crustacean, Endangered species, Extinction, Prawn, Shrimp, Decapoda, IUCN Red List