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Species Name:          Charybdis hellerii
Common Name:      (Indo-Pacific Swimming Crab)

 

I.  TAXONOMY

Kingdom Phylum/Division: Class: Order: Family: Genus:
Animalia Arthropoda Malacostraca Decapoda Portunidae Charybdis


Adult female Charybdis hellerii from
Indian River Lagoon, FL.  Photo courtesy 
of:  J. Piraino, Smithsonian Marine Station 
at Fort Pierce.



Megalopa (post-larva) of Charybdis hellerii on seagrass blade.  Photo courtesy of: J. Dineen, Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce.


Species Name: 
Charybdis hellerii
(A. Milne-Edwards, 1867)

Common Name:
Indo-Pacific Swimming Crab

Species Description:
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. hellerii.

Potentially Misidentified Species:
Charybdis vannamei Ward 1941 - could be same species as C. hellerii (Wee & Ng 1995).

 


Synonymy:
Charybdis (Charybdis) hellerii - A. Milne Edwards 1867
Goniosoma hellerii - A. Milne Edwards 1867 1873; Henderson 1893.
Charybdis hellerii - Edmondson 1954.
Charybdis (Charybdis) hellerii - Leene 1938; Stephenson 1945 1972 1975
1976; Buitendijk 1947; Stephenson et al 1957; Crosnier 1962; Ow-Yang
1963; Lovett 1981; Dai et al 1986; Dai & Yang 1991.
Goniosoma merguiense - DeMan 1888 1895.
Charybdis merguiensis - Sakai 1934; Barnard 1950; Guinot 1962.
Charybdis (Goniosoma) merguiense - Alcock 1899, Nobili 1906, Chopra 1935, Leene 1973 Shen 1937. 

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.


II.  HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION 

Regional Occurrence:
Charybdis hellerii is native to Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean.

IRL Distribution:
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).


III. 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 (ovigerous female).

Reproduction:
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 observed. 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).

Embryology:
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).


IV.  PHYSICAL TOLERANCES

Temperature:
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 1957).

V.  COMMUNITY ECOLOGY

Habitat:
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 1989).

Activity Time:
See Stephenson et al 1957; Javed & Mustaquim 1994.

Associated Species:
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).


VI. SPECIAL STATUS

Special Status:
Invasive species

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 (Lemaitre 1995). 

Impact on Natives:
Undetermined.

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.

Economic Importance:
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.

 

Report by:  J. Dineen, Smithsonian Marine Station
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Page last updated: July 25,  2001