Charybdis hellerii (A. Milne-Edwards, 1867)
Family: Portunidae
Common names: Indo-pacific Swimming Crab
Charybdis hellerii image
Charybdis hellerii  

Species Description: Keys to the 12 species of Charybdis, including C. hellerii, from Australia based on both general features as well as pleopod morphology are available (Stephenson et al 1957). A prominent spine on the carpus of the swimming leg, a lighter area on the anterior of the carapace in live specimens, as well as bristles stopping before the tip of the first male pleopod were considered diagnostic traits for C. hellerii.

Potentially Misidentified Species: Charybdis vannamei Ward 1941 - could be same species as C. hellerii (Wee & Ng 1995).

Spelling: According to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN), the correct spelling of the specific epithet for this species of Charybdis is hellerii (see Tavares & De Mendonca 1996).

Voucher Specimen: Voucher specimen deposited in the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. Catalog number 275907.

Regional Occurrence: Charybdis hellerii is native to Indonesia and the Pacific Ocean.

IRL Distribution: C. hellerii was found in the Fort Pierce Inlet area of the Indian River Lagoon, FL on 20 April 1995. It was subsequently found at Sebastian Inlet, Florida, and again in Fort Pierce Inlets during April - August 1995 (Lemaitre 1995).

Age, Size, Lifespan: The largest specimen of Charybdis sampled in Peninsular Malaysia was a male measuring 51.1  X 79.8 mm (13.0 X 20.3 inches) (Wee & Ng 1995). The smallest ovigerous female examined from Australian specimens was 47.0 mm. Ovigerous females were sampled from May, July, and from December to January. When C. hellerii was sampled from the west coast of India, maximum male and female carapace lengths were 63.7 and 51.0 mm respectively (Kathirvel and Gopalakrishnan 1974). Colombian specimens measured as large as 74.2 mm (male) and 55.6 mm (ovigerous female) (Campos & Turkay 1995). Largest specimens captured in Florida measured 74.0 mm (male) and 54.0 mm (ovigerous female) (Lemaitre 1995). Maximum carapace measurements of C. hellerii sampled for the first time in Brazil in 1995, measured 75.0 mm (male) and 62.0 mm (ovigerous female).

Reproduction: The smallest female of Charybdis hellerii examined by Stephenson et al (1957) from fixed material was 47.0 mm. Eggs of C. hellerii, from material sampled from the west coast of India, were described as being bright yellow in color, with spherical diameters ranging from 0.224 to 0.322 mm (Kathirvel & Gopalakrishnan 1974). In a study of brachyuran crab fecundity from Pakistani specimens, including C. hellerii, a positive correlation between carapace width and egg number was observed. Mean number of eggs in three size classes (carapace length: 31 - 40; 41 - 50; and 51 - 60 mm) of C. hellerii were: 40,203; 67,648 and 148,249 respectively. The minimum, maximum and average number of eggs from 19 specimens of C. hellerii examined were 22,517; 292,050 and 77,394 respectively (Siddiqui & Ahmed 1992). Although reproductive seasonality in C. hellerii has not been documented, other congeners are reproductively active throughout the year with peaks in the spring and fall (Pillai & Nair 1970 1976 as cited in Lemaitre 1995).

Embryology: All larval, postlarval as well as juvenile through adult stages of Charybdis hellerii have been successfully reared in the laboratory for the first time, and are currently being described (Dineen et al. - in prep).

Temperature: Based on the distribution of 5 species of Charybdis from east and west Australia, its range, at least along the Australian coast, appears to be limited by temperature with C. hellerii considered the most tolerant of lower temperatures (Stephenson et al 1957).

Habitat: Charybdis hellerii is found in soft-bottom areas, under rocks and in corals from the intertidal zone to 30 - 51 m (Stephenson et al 1957; Galil 1992 as cited in Lemaitre 1995; Wee and Ng 1995). Other congeners are considered to be sublittoral (Stephenson et al 1957). In Columbia, C. hellerii was sampled from a Thalassia testudinum meadow as well as from the outer fringe of mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) (Campos and Turkay 1989).

Activity Time: See Stephenson et al 1957; Javed & Mustaquim 1994.

Associated Species: Chelonibia patula, the turtle barnacle, was found on Charybdis hellerii from Pakistan (Javed & Mustaquim 1994). Australian specimens of C. hellerii had a 1.3% Sacculina infection (Stephenson et al 1957).

Special Status: Invasive species

Notes on Special Status: Charybdis hellerii is a non-indigenous (exotic) swimming crab in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida.

History of Spread: The present day distribution of Charybdis hellerii, a portunid crab of Indo-Pacific origin, has extended to the eastern Mediterranean and western Atlantic. The distribution of Charybdis hellerii in the eastern Mediterranean to Hawaii as well as eastern Australia and Queensland was extended to western Australia and the northern Territory (Stephenson et al 1957). In 1972, C. hellerii was first recorded from the west coast of India, although it was previously documented only from the east coast of India (Kathirvel and Gopalakrishnan 1974). The probable migration of C. hellerii through the Suez Canal could account for its occurrence in the eastern Mediterranean including Israel, Egypt and Lebanon (Por 1978 and Shiber 1981, as cited in Campos and Turkay 1989). In 1987, Charybdis hellerii was recorded from several sites in the western Atlantic: Cuba (Gomez & Martinez-Iglesias 1990); Venezuela (Hernandez & Bolanos 1995); and Colombia (Campos and Turkay 1989). Its introduction to the Caribbean coast of Columbia was thought to have occurred from either ballast water or from specimens clinging to the "ship's trunk". It was first sited at Bahia Portete, Columbia in 1987 and one year later C. hellerii was found ~ 250 km west in Bahia Chengue, Columbia, probably as a result of adult migration or larval transport in the Caribbean current (Campos and Turkay 1989). In 1995, Charybdis hellerii was recorded from Rio de Janeiro, (southeastern coast) Brazil, from 0.5 - 3.0 m depth. These authors suggest that transportation of larval stages by the Brazilian current from a previous Caribbean invasion were the most likely source of C. hellerii in Brazil, as opposed to direct transfer of ballast in Brazilian waters (Tavares & De Mendonca 1996).

The first record of C. hellerii from the North American Atlantic coast, extending its range from the Caribbean, was in 1995 when the crab was discovered in the Indian River Lagoon system in Florida. Ballast water is the most probable mechanism of transport to the Caribbean and eastern Florida. The discovery of an ovigerous female and several juveniles of C. hellerii in the Indian River Lagoon probably indicates an established population (Lemaitre 1995).

Impact on Natives: Undetermined.

Cost in the IRL: A non-native portunid crab (swimming crab), Charybdis hellerii could potentially compete with native brachyuran crabs, particularly with other portunids such as Callinectes spp. for food and habitat in the Indian River Lagoon. If this is the case, the fishery for Callinectes sapidus could be negatively impacted.

Economic Importance: Charybdis hellerii is commercially important in southeast Asia (Moosa 1981 as cited in Lemaitre 1995), but no market exists for it in the United States.

Campos NH, Türkay M. 1989. On a record of Charybdis hellerii from the Caribbean coast of Colombia (Crustacea: Decapoda: Portunidae). Senckenbergiana Marit 20: 119-123.

Dineen JF, Clark PF, Hines AH, Reed SA, Walton HP. 2001. Life history, larval description, and natural history of Charybdis hellerii (Decapoda, Brachyura, Portunidae), an invasive crab in the western Atlantic. J Crust Biol 21: 774-805.

Galil BS. 1992. Eritrean decapods in the Levant. Biogeography in motion. Bull l'Institut Oceanographique, Monaco. 9: 115-123.

Gómez O, Martinez-Iglesias JC. 1990. Reciente hallazgo de la especie indopacifica Charybdis helleri (A. Milne Edwards, 1867) (Crustacea: Decapoda: Portunidae) en aguas cubanas. Carib J Sci 26: 70-72.

Hernandez G, Bolaños J. 1995. Additions to the anomuran and brachyuran faunaof northeastern Venezuela. Crust Soc Summer Meet, May 25-27, 1995.

Javed M, Mustaquim J. 1994. New record of an acorn barnacle, Chelonibia patula (Cirripedia, Thoracica) from Pakistan. Crustaceana 66: 124-126.

Kathirvel M, Gopalakrishnan KN. 1974. On the occurrence of Charybdis (Charybdis) hellerii (A. Milne Edwards) (Decapoda: Portunidae) along the west coast of India. J Mar Biol Assn India 16: 286-287.

Lemaitre R. 1995. Charybdis hellerii (Milne Edwards, 1867) a nonindigenous portunid crab (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachura) discovered in the Indian River lagoon system of Florida. Proc Biol Soc Washington 108: 643-648.

Pillai K, Nair NB. 1970. Observation on the reproductive cycles of some crabs from the southwest coast of India. J Mar Biol Assn India 10: 384-386.

Pillai KK, Nair NB. 1976. Observations on the breeding biology of some crabs from the southwest coast of India. J Mar Biol Assn India 15: 754-770.

Por FD. 1978. Lessepsian Migration - The Influx of Red Sea Biota into the Mediterranean by Way of the Suez Canal. Ecological Studies 23. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Shiber JG. 1981. Brachyurans from Lebanese waters. Bull Mar Sci 31: 864-875.

Siddiqui G, Ahmed M. 1992. Fecundities of some marine brachyuran crabs from Karachi (Pakistan). Pakistan J Zool 24: 43-45.

Stephenson W, Hudson JJ, Campbell B. 1957. The Australian portunids (Crustacea: Portunidae). II. The genus Charybdis. Aust J Mar Freshwat Res 8: 491-507.

Tavares M, Mendonça Jr JD. 1996. Charybdis hellerii (A. Milne Edwards, 1867)(Brachyura: Portunidae), eighth nonindigenous marine decapod recorded from Brazil. Crust Res 25: 151-157.

Wee DPC, Ng PKL. 1995. Swimming crabs of the genera Charybdis De Haan, 1833, and Thalamita Latreille, 1829 (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Portunidae) from Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. Raffles Bull Zool Suppl 1: 1-128.

Charybdis hellerii image
Charybdis hellerii  
Charybdis hellerii image
Charybdis hellerii  
Charybdis hellerii image
Charybdis hellerii  
Charybdis hellerii image
Charybdis hellerii  
Charybdis hellerii image
Charybdis hellerii