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Phylum Arthropoda > Subphylum Crustacea > Class Malacostraca > Order Decapoda > Lobsters
Mud lobster
Thalassina sp.
Family Thalassinidae
updated Nov 13
if you learn only 3 things about them ...
They are rarely seen but are a vital part of a healthy mangrove.
They are responsible for the huge mounds of mud in the back mangroves.
Many other plants and animals live and feed on these mounds.

Where seen? The mud lobster is almost never seen out of its burrow in the mangrove mud. But the impressive mounds created by this animal are still commonly seen in the undisturbed back mangroves on our shores.

Features: Up to 30cm long. The mud lobster is actually not a lobster but more of a giant shrimp. It is more closely related to ghost shrimps of the genus Callianasa. The mud lobster lives deep under the mound in a U-shaped tunnel and rarely emerges above ground. According to the Singapore Red Data Book, there are two species of mudlobsters found in Singapore. Thalassina gracilis is smaller with a pointed 'nose' (rostrum) and known to live next to Thalassina anomala. Thalassina gracilis was not seen for a long time until it was recently re-discovered.

Marvellous farmer of the mangroves: The mud lobster plays a key role in sustaining life in a mangrove. It is believed to eat mud. As it eats-and-digs, it recycles nutrients from deep underground, bringing these within reach of other plants and animals. Its digging also loosens the mud and allows air and oxygenated water to penetrate the otherwise oxygen-poor ground. All this digging also eventually results in a distinctive volcano-shaped mound that can reach impressive proportions.

Mud lobster 'Condo': A mud lobster mound can be as tall as 2m above the ground! The mud lobster mound is drier than its surroundings so it makes a perfect home for other animals. Many animals can be found in living in these 'high-rise' mounds, creating their own burrows in the mound, sometimes complete with chimneys. 'Condo' dwellers include snakes, crabs, ants, spiders, worms, clams and shrimps. Some plants also appear to grow better on these mounds. The condominium comes complete with swimming pool! Water is trapped in the mound system forming pools. At low tide, these shelter aquatic animals such as mudskippers.

Human uses: Mud lobsters are eaten in some Pacific Islands such as Fiji. In our part of the world, they are considered a nuinsance by fish and prawn farmers as their digging activities undermine the bunds (raised edges of mud) that surround fish and prawn ponds.

Status and threats: Our mud lobsters are listed as 'Endangered' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore, as their preferred habitats are lost or degraded. If they disappear, so will their 'condos' and the plants and animals living there. L
ike other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution.

Chek Jawa, Nov 01


Fresh mud from a mound suggests
an active mud lobster deep underground.

Chek Jawa, Mar 12



Shared by Toh Chay Hoon on her flickr.
Chek Jawa, Nov 08

Mudlobster in its burrow.
Chek Jawa, Oct 07

Mangrove ferns growing on a mound.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Aug 09


Mudlobster mounds
Sungei Pandan, Jun 09

Mudlobster mounds
Chek Jawa, Oct 09

Mud lobsters on Singapore shores

Photos of Mud lobsters for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map


Chek Jawa, Aug 09

Shared by Marcus Ng on flickr.

Chek Jawa, Nov 08
Shared by Toh Chay Hoon on flickr.

Mud Lobster at Chek Jawa!
Seen at Chek Jawa from the mangrove boardwalk on 29 Aug 09.
Video clip shared by November on her flickr.

Links

References

  • Moh H. H. and V. C. Chong. "A new species of Thalassina (Crustacea: Decapoda: Thalassinidae) from Malaysia", The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Vol 57 (2009) Issue No. 2.
  • 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. Nature Society (Singapore). 285 pp.
  • Jones Diana S. and Gary J. Morgan, 2002. A Field Guide to Crustaceans of Australian Waters. Reed New Holland. 224 pp.
  • Debelius, Helmut, 2001. Crustacea Guide of the World: Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean IKAN-Unterwasserachiv, Frankfurt. 321 pp.
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