Keys to the 12 species of Charybdis, including C. hellerii, from Australia based on both general
features as well as pleopod morphology are available (Stephenson et al 1957). A prominent spine on the carpus of the swimming leg, a lighter area on the
anterior of the carapace in live specimens, as well as bristles stopping before
the tip of the first male pleopod were considered diagnostic traits for C.
Potentially Misidentified Species
Charybdis vannamei Ward 1941 - could be same species as C. hellerii (Wee & Ng 1995).
Spelling: According to the International Code of Zoological
Nomenclature (ICZN), the correct spelling of the specific epithet for this
species of Charybdis is hellerii (see Tavares & De Mendonca 1996).
Voucher Specimen: Voucher specimen deposited in the National Museum of Natural History,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Catalog number 275907.
HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
Charybdis hellerii is native to Indonesia and the Pacific
C. hellerii was found in the Fort
Pierce Inlet area of the Indian River Lagoon, FL on 20 April 1995. It was
subsequently found at Sebastian Inlet, Florida, and again in Fort Pierce
Inlets during April - August 1995 (Lemaitre 1995).
LIFE HISTORY AND POPULATION BIOLOGY
Age, Size, Lifespan
The largest specimen of
Charybdis sampled in Peninsular Malaysia was a male measuring 51.1
X 79.8 mm (13.0 X 20.3 inches) (Wee & Ng 1995). The smallest ovigerous female examined from Australian
specimens was 47.0 mm. Ovigerous females were sampled from May, July, and from
December to January. When C. hellerii was sampled from the west coast of India,
maximum male and female carapace lengths were 63.7 and 51.0 mm respectively (Kathirvel
and Gopalakrishnan 1974). Colombian specimens measured as large as 74.2 mm
(male) and 55.6 mm (ovigerous female) (Campos & Turkay 1995). Largest
specimens captured in Florida measured 74.0 mm (male) and 54.0 mm (ovigerous
female) (Lemaitre 1995). Maximum carapace measurements of C. hellerii sampled
for the first time in Brazil in 1995, measured 75.0 mm (male) and 62.0 mm
The smallest female of Charybdis hellerii examined by Stephenson et al (1957) from fixed
material was 47.0 mm. Eggs of C. hellerii, from material sampled from the west
coast of India, were described as being bright yellow in color, with spherical
diameters ranging from 0.224 to 0.322 mm (Kathirvel & Gopalakrishnan 1974).
In a study of brachyuran crab fecundity from Pakistani specimens, including C.
hellerii, a positive correlation between carapace width and egg number was
Mean number of eggs in three size classes (carapace length: 31 - 40; 41 - 50;
and 51 - 60 mm) of C. hellerii were: 40,203; 67,648 and 148,249 respectively.
The minimum, maximum and average number of eggs from 19 specimens of C. hellerii
examined were 22,517; 292,050 and 77,394 respectively (Siddiqui & Ahmed
1992). Although reproductive seasonality in C. hellerii has not been documented,
other congeners are reproductively active throughout the year with peaks in the
spring and fall (Pillai & Nair 1970 1976 as cited in Lemaitre 1995).
All larval, postlarval as
well as juvenile through adult stages of Charybdis hellerii have been
successfully reared in the laboratory for the first time, and are currently
being described (Dineen et al. - in prep).
Based on the distribution
of 5 species of Charybdis from east and west Australia, its range, at least
along the Australian coast, appears to be limited by temperature with C.
hellerii considered the most tolerant of lower temperatures (Stephenson et al
Charybdis hellerii is
found in soft-bottom areas, under rocks and in corals from the intertidal zone to 30 - 51
m (Stephenson et al 1957; Galil 1992 as cited in Lemaitre 1995; Wee and Ng
1995). Other congeners are considered to be sublittoral (Stephenson et al 1957).
In Columbia, C. hellerii was sampled from a Thalassia testudinum
meadow as well
as from the outer fringe of mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) (Campos and Turkay
See Stephenson et al 1957;
Javed & Mustaquim 1994.
Chelonibia patula, the
turtle barnacle, was found on Charybdis hellerii from Pakistan (Javed &
Mustaquim 1994). Australian specimens of C. hellerii had a 1.3% Sacculina
infection (Stephenson et al 1957).
Notes on Special Status
Charybdis hellerii is a non-indigenous (exotic) swimming crab in the Indian
River Lagoon, Florida.
History of Spread
The present day distribution of
Charybdis hellerii, a portunid crab of Indo -Pacific origin, has extended to the
eastern Mediterranean and western Atlantic. The distribution of Charybdis
hellerii in the eastern Mediterranean to Hawaii as well as eastern Australia and
Queensland was extended to western Australia and the northern Territory
(Stephenson et al 1957). In 1972, C. hellerii was first recorded from the west
coast of India, although it was previously documented only from the east coast
of India (Kathirvel and Gopalakrishnan 1974). The probable migration of C.
hellerii through the Suez Canal could account for its occurrence in the eastern
Mediterranean including Israel, Egypt and Lebanon (Por 1978 and Shiber 1981, as
cited in Campos and Turkay 1989). In 1987, Charybdis hellerii was recorded from
several sites in the western Atlantic: Cuba (Gomez & Martinez-Iglesias
1990); Venezuela (Hernandez & Bolanos 1995); and Colombia (Campos and Turkay
1989). Its introduction to the Caribbean coast of Columbia was thought to have
occurred from either ballast water or from specimens clinging to the
"ship's trunk". It was first sited at Bahia Portete, Columbia in 1987
and one year later C. hellerii was found ~ 250 km west in Bahia Chengue,
Columbia, probably as a result of adult migration or larval transport in the
Caribbean current (Campos and Turkay 1989). In 1995, Charybdis
hellerii was recorded from Rio de Janeiro, (southeastern coast) Brazil, from 0.5
- 3.0 m depth. These authors suggest that transportation of larval stages by the
Brazilian current from a previous Caribbean invasion were the most likely source
of C. hellerii in Brazil, as opposed to direct transfer of ballast in Brazilian
waters (Tavares & De Mendonca 1996).
The first record of C. hellerii
from the North American Atlantic coast, extending its range from the Caribbean,
was in 1995 when the crab was discovered in the Indian River Lagoon system in
Florida. It was felt that ballast water is the most probable mechanism of
transport to the Caribbean and eastern Florida. The discovery of an ovigerous
female and several juveniles of C. hellerii in the Indian River Lagoon probably indicates an established population
Impact on Natives
Cost in the IRL
A non-native portunid crab (swimming crab), Charybdis hellerii could
potentially compete with native brachyuran crabs, particularly with other
portunids such as Callinectes spp. for food and habitat in the
Indian River Lagoon. If this is the case, the fishery for Callinectes sapidus
could be negatively impacted.
Charybdis hellerii is
commercially important in southeast Asia (Moosa 1981 as cited in Lemaitre 1995),
but no market exists for it in the United States.
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