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Phylum Arthropoda > Subphylum Crustacea > Class Malacostraca > Order Decapoda > Brachyurans > Family Sesarmidae
Tree climbing crab
Episesarma sp.
Family Sesarmidae
updated Dec 2019
Where seen? This crab with a flat, squarish body and flat pointed legs is commonly seen in our mangroves. Our mangrove trees are often full of crabs!

Features: Body width 4-5cm. Body flat and squarish, legs flat with pointed tips. Pincers may be colourful. The sides of the body have a structure with a net-like pattern that help recirculate and oxygenate water in the gill chambers. In this way, these crabs can breathe air and stay out of the water for some time.

About to munch on flowers?
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Sep 03

Kranji Nature Trail, Dec 10

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Dec 03
Many are burrowers, digging holes at the base of mangrove trees and in mud lobster mounds. At high tide during the day, tree-climbing varieties are often seen clinging to tree trunks just above the water line. Here they remain motionless. They probably do this to avoid both aquatic predators in the water, as well as airborne predators such as birds.

Some of the Episesarma species seen in Singapore can be distinguished by the colour of their pincers.

Singapore tree climbing crab
(Episesarma chentongense)
has all red pincers.

Violet tree climbing crab
(Episesarma versicolor)
has purple-white pincers.

Pink tree climbing crab
(Episesarma palawanense)
has red-white pincers.
What does it eat? It eats mainly leaves, gathering these at night from the ground or by climbing up trees. These crabs have been observed as high as 6m up in trees. It may also scavenge any dead animals that it comes across. They may even eat other tree climbing crabs.

Human uses: The Teochew pickle these crabs in black sauce with vinegar and eat them with porridge. The Thais eat them salted with the roe or fried whole. They are considered pests in mangrove plantations because they attack mangrove seedlings.

Tree climbing crabs on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores


Chek Jawa, Sep 11
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

Chek Jawa, Sep 12
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

Pasir Ris Park, Dec 14
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.

Episesarma species recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore
^Lee B. Y., Ng N. K. & P. K. L. Ng. The taxonomy of five species of Episesarma De Man, 1895 in Singapore (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Sesarmidae).
in red are those listed among the threatened animals of Singapore
from Davison, G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore.
**from WORMS

  Family Sesarmidae (previously Grapsidae)
  Episesarma chentongensis=**Episesarma chentongense (Pink tree climbing crab)
^Episesarma mederi
Episesarma palawanensis=**Episesarma palawanense
Episesarma singaporensis=**Episesarma singaporense
(Singapore tree climbing crab)
Episesarma taeniolata=**Episesarma mederi
Episesarma versicolor
(Violet tree climbing crab)

Links References
  • Lee B. Y., Ng N. K. & P. K. L. Ng. The taxonomy of five species of Episesarma De Man, 1895 in Singapore (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Sesarmidae). 10 July 2015. The Comprehensive Marine Biodiversity Survey: Johor Straits International Workshop (2012) The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 2015 Supplement No. 31, Pp. 199-215.
  • Benjamin Lee Chengf. 29 Sep 2017. Vinegar crab, Episesarma singaporense, feeding on dead congener. Singapore Biodiversity Records 2016: 156
  • 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.
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