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Phylum Arthropoda > Subphylum Crustacea > Class Malacostraca > Order Decapoda > Brachyurans
Leaf porter crab
Family Dorippidae
updated Dec 2019

if you learn only 3 things about them ...
They use a leaf, flat shell or other rubbish to hide under.
Specialised legs grip the disguise.
At night they swim above the leaf to hide from predators below.

Where seen? This shy and sneaky crab is commonly seen, by the sharp-eyed observer, especially on our Northern shores. To spot one, look for odd movement in a leaf or a shell, perhaps moving too quickly or against the currents. Often in mangroves, near seagrasses but also on shores near reefs, even under jetties in calm waters.

Body width to about 1.5cm. Named for its habit of carrying a leaf as a mobile hiding place, it may also "carry" a clam shell, a flat piece of wood or other bits of flotsam. Two pairs of legs are short and bent permanently over the back. These legs are tipped with hairy pads to cling onto the leaf or shell. Two other pairs of legs are longer and fringed with hairs. These fringed legs are used like paddles to swim slowly about.

The body is flat and somewhat rectangular. It has rather long antennae for a crab. Pincers small and held flat against the body. Some may have one enlarged and inflated pincer, while others have pincers of similar size.

The crab is more active at night. At this time, there are few predators above the water that can spot them in the dark. So at night, it swims with the leaf under it, to hide from aquatic predators below. If it senses danger from above, however, it will quickly flip under the leaf! During the day, it often hides under the leaf, half buried in the sand or mud.

What does it eat? The crab is a scavenger, eating any dead plants or animals that it comes across.

Status and threats: Leaf porter crabs are not listed among the threatened animals of Singapore.
However, like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution. Trampling by careless visitors also have an impact on local populations.

Changi, Apr 04

Two kinds of legs.

This one was 'carrying' a clam shell.
Changi, Jul 02

Seldom seen upper side.
Labrador, Jan 06

Some have one enlarged pincer.
Raffles Marina, May 05

Leaf porter crabs on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

Punggol, Jun 12
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Beting Bronok, Jun 18
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Changi Lost Coast, Jun 22
Photo shared by Marcus on facebook.

East Coast-Marina Bay, Jan 21
Photo shared by Vincent Choo on facebook.

Filmed on Labrador, Jun 08

leaf porter crab @ Labrador Nature Reserve 08June2008 from SgBeachBum on Vimeo.

Family Dorippidae recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore
+from The Biodiversity of Singapore, Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.
**from WORMS

  Family Dorippidae
  Dorippe armata=**Phyllodorippe armata
+Dorippe frascone
+Dorippe quadridens

Dorippoides facchino

Neodorippe callida

Links References
  • Ng, Peter K. L. and Daniele Guinot and Peter J. F. Davie, 2008. Systema Brachyurorum: Part 1. An annotated checklist of extant Brachyuran crabs of the world. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. Supplement No. 17, 31 Jan 2008. 286 pp.
  • Lim, S., P. Ng, L. Tan, & W. Y. Chin, 1994. Rhythm of the Sea: The Life and Times of Labrador Beach. Division of Biology, School of Science, Nanyang Technological University & Department of Zoology, the National University of Singapore. 160 pp.
  • Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore. National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
  • Ng, P. K. L. & Y. C. Wee, 1994. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened Plants and Animals of Singapore. The Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore. 343 pp.
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