Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory

<em>Lissoporcellana quadrilobata </em>[from Miers 1884: pl. 30 fig. D]

Lissoporcellana quadrilobata [from Miers 1884: pl. 30 fig. D]

<em>Petrolisthes haswelli</em> [from Miers 1884: pl. 29 fig. A]

Petrolisthes haswelli [from Miers 1884: pl. 29 fig. A]

<em>Polyonyx obesulus</em> [from Miers 1884: pl. 29 fig. D]

Polyonyx obesulus [from Miers 1884: pl. 29 fig. D]

<em>Pachyeles sculptus</em> [from Grant & McCulloch 1906: pl. 2 fig. 2]

Pachyeles sculptus [from Grant & McCulloch 1906: pl. 2 fig. 2]


Regional Maps

Family PORCELLANIDAE Haworth, 1825


Porcellanids are commonly known as 'Porcellain Crabs'. Unlike other anomurans they have the abdomen flattened and tucked under the body in a manner similar to true crabs; this crab-like impression is further enhanced by robust claws held out in front of the body. However, unlike true crabs, porcellanids have retained a well-developed tailfan.

Porcellanids occur in a wide variety of habitats across the continental shelf, but are most abundant in sheltered intertidal and shallow subtidal zones of reefs, rocky shores, and estuarine mangroves. Many have flattened bodies which allow them to live in narrow spaces on the undersides of rocks and dead coral; if the rocks are turned up the crabs are very quick to scurry out of sight. Others tend to be thicker-bodied, and are common members of epifaunal fouling communities. Commensal or ectosymbiont relationships are common in this family, with species frequently living in association with sponges, and on a variety of cnidarians such as Pennatulacea (sea pens), hard and soft corals, gorgonians and alcyonarians. The beautiful Neopetrolisthes maculatus lives commensally amongst the tentacles of giant anemones such as Stichodactyla, Entacmaea and Heteractis species. Another native Australian species, Polyonyx transversus (Haswell, 1882), is notable for living commensally inside the parchment tube of a large polychaete worm (Chaetopterus) and inside the shell cavity of bivalve molluscs (Aspergillum). Porcellanids are typically suspension feeders, catching food on long feathered setae as their elongate third maxillipeds are pulled through the water.

The Australian fauna is relatively diverse and includes 48 species in 13 genera. Even so, there has been relatively little taxonomic study, and the fauna is significantly more diverse than these figures indicate. The majority of modern work on this family has been undertaken by Haig (1964, 1965, 1966, 1973, 1974, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1987, 1988), Ball & Haig (1972) and Haig & Ball (1988)—all important papers for identifying the Australian fauna.



Body more or less depressed and crab-like, carapace broadly ovate; frontal margin often forming broad triangular rostrum, but may be bilobate, trilobate or quadrilobate. Antennules concealed; antennal peduncles directed backwards. Third maxillipeds with ischium broad. First pereiopods chelate, broad, flattened or inflated; often held more or less horizontally or obliquely. Second to third pereiopods used as walking legs. Fifth pereiopods markedly reduced, thin, folded into more dorsal position, and resting in branchial chamber. Abdomen symmetrical, broad, and strongly flattened, folded under body, but not closing a sterno-abdominal cavity; first one or two segments visible dorsally; broad tailfan of telson and uropods well developed; telson divided into five or seven plates; female with two pairs of slender uniramous pleopods on fourth and fifth abdominal segments, often with additional pair on third; male with single pair of pleopods on second segment.


General References

Ball, E.E. & Haig, J. 1972. Hermit crabs from eastern New Guinea. Pacific Science 26(1): 87-107

Haig, J. 1964. Papers from Dr. TH. Mortensen's Pacific Expedition 1914–1916 81. Porcellanid crabs from the Indo-west Pacific, Part 1. Videnskabelige Meddelelser fra Dansk Naturhistorisk Forening i Kjøbenhavn 126: 355-386

Haig, J. 1965. The Porcellanidae (Crustacea, Anomura) of Western Australia, with descriptions of four new Australian species. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 48(4): 97-118

Haig, J. 1966. A review of the Indo-west Pacific species of genus Pachycheles (Porcellanidae, Anomura). Symp. Ser. Mar. Biol. Assoc. India. No. 2. Proceedings of the Symposium on Crustacea Part 1. 285-294 pp.

Haig, J. 1973. Galatheidea (Crustacea, Decapoda, Anomura) collected by the F.I.S. Endeavour. Records of the Australian Museum 28(14): 269-289 figs 1, 2

Haig, J. 1974. The Anomuran crabs of Western Australia: their distribution in the Indian Ocean and adjacent seas. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of India 14(2): 443-451

Haig, J. 1978. Contribution toward a revision of the porcellanid genus Porcellana (Crustacea: Decapoda: Anomura). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 91(3): 706-714

Haig, J. 1979. Expédition Rumphius II (1975) Crustacés parasites, commensaux, etc. (Th. Monod et R. Seréne, éd.) V. Porcellanidae (Crustacea, Decapoda, Anomura). Bulletin du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris [published 1907-1971] 1(1): 119-136

Haig, J. 1981. Porcellanid crabs from the Indo-west Pacific, Part II. Steenstrupia 7(12): 269-291

Haig, J. 1987. Porcellanid crabs from the Coral Sea. The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 4(1): 11-14

Haig, J. 1988. Two new mangrove-dwelling Porcellanid crabs, of genus Petrolisthes Stimpson, from tropical Australia (Crustacea: Decapoda: Anomura). The Beagle, Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 5(1): 71-76

Haig, J. & Ball, E.E. 1988. Hermit crabs from north Australian and eastern Indonesian waters (Crustacea Decapoda: Anomura: Paguroidea) collected during the 1975 Alpha Helix Expedition. Records of the Australian Museum 40(3): 151-196


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
24-Apr-2012 24-Apr-2012 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)