Vampire Crabs – Another Legend or Cryptic Reality?

DraculaByCharlesChaissonThey lurk in the shadows, mad yellow eyes glowing, pincers ready to strike. Instead of fangs, they have sharp little claws that they clack together as they eagerly anticipate their next victim. Is this the stuff of fiction? Or do these Vampire Crabs really exist? CryptoVille investigates!

I stared at the monitor transfixed. Their colors are mesmerizing and quite beautiful. Then I shook my head and said, “Wait a minute! Isn’t that how human vampires rope us in, with their beauty/ handsomeness?” Business-like once more, I dug for the truth. (Artwork right by CharlesChaisson.)

German research scientists, Christoph Schubart, and his colleague Christian Lukhaup, of Regensburg University’s Institute of Zoology, identified two new species of vampire crabs recently. They were helped in their discovery by Peter Ng of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Singapore. The weird thing is, both these crabs have been widely used in the aquarium trade for years, but no one knew where they originated. Now we know.

map-Java01Both species originate in river valleys in Indonesia, on the island of Java. Though they come from different rivers, they are related biologically. Geosesarma dennerly and Geosesarma hagen are the new species named by the scientists and they really are beautiful.

G. dennerly is a gorgeous mottle of purple, lavender, and some magenta, and sports a cream colored spot on its back. Not to be outdone, it seems, G. hagen has bright red/orange claws in stark contrast to its black body. (Photos below.)




How did they wind up in aquariums around the world before science could properly identify them? Turns out dealers in these aquatic critters explore areas off the beaten path long before scientists can get there, and they collect what they know their customers will like – bright, colorful creatures to add to their mini water worlds.

vampirecrab-geosesarma-dennerleVampire Crab Facts

These little guys measure up to an inch in width, so they fit perfectly into aquariums and terrariums. Adding to their vampiric lure, these creatures hunt  greedily at twilight for their dinner. They like to climb which is important to remember if getting one for your aquarium or terrarium. (G. dennerle, photo right.)

According to Schubart, these animals evolved so colorfully because they spend a lot of time on land, in fact they are amphibious. On land, coloration is vital as a means of communication between animals.  He says, “There’s much more emphasis on color and visual cues rather than chemical cues, as used in the water.”

vampirecrab-geosesearmahagenThey actually spend most of their time on land, going into the water only to molt and lay their eggs.

(Photo left G. hagen.)

The down side to this is the fact that they’re being over-hunted for the aquarium trade. The scientists hope this will stop as “private enthusiasts” are breeding these crabs for sale to the aquarium trade. Once that builds up enough, the need to buy actual Javan vampire crabs will cease.

Natives Know

Here is another example how the  local people know about species of animals and creatures that science has yet to uncover. This is just another indication that the cryptid animals we love to talk about are most likely in this same category – known by the locals and waiting for science to “discover” them!

Let the search continue!

Til the next time!

Fun Fact: Co-author of this study, Christian Lukhaup, was born in Transylvania, home to the most famous vampire of all – Dracula! Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!


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