The porcelain crab is one of the most widespread species of crustaceans around the world. Also known as anemone crabs due to their symbiotic existence with poisonous sea anemones, these tiny creatures live in almost continuous hiding, between mussels and under stones, but however shy they are, when they feel threatened, they use their claws and legs to scare their attacker away. One of the most interesting facts about the porcelain crab is that losing a claw or a leg is never a problem for the animal as the limbs grow back within a very short time.
Porcelain crabs are usually very small, their body widths ranging up to 15 mm. Their flattened bodies are rounded and compact, developed through evolution to make them able to live in camouflage. The colors of the porcelain crab serve the purposes of hiding as well: most crabs feature shades of orange and brown, with blue spots, the most common colors of the sea bed.
Porcelain crabs are not true crabs – unlike true crabs, these creatures have only three pairs of legs to walk on, the fourth pair being reduced in size and kept close to the carapace. Another feature that differentiates porcelain crabs from real ones is the existence of the two long antennae at the front of their head.
Though porcelain crabs are equipped with huge claws, these pincers are not used for catching other animals. The role of the claws is to pinch bits of algae, to scavenge dead animals and to fight.
These tiny creatures prefer warm water, that’s why they feel best in the shallow waters of coral reefs that are never colder than 70-78 degrees Fahrenheit.
Reproduction and Mating
The porcelain crab socializes only with its own kind. These crabs live in heterosexual pairs and they multiply with internal fertilization. During the act of mating, the male crab passes his sperm packet into the body of the female, who then carries the packet on her abdomen. Females usually carry more than 1,500 eggs at a time.
When the eggs hatch, the little larvae that are able to swim on their own, but start resembling their parents only after they settle down later on.
Porcelain crabs feed mainly on planktons obtained by filtering the water of the sea through their mouthparts. In some cases, they obtain their food by scavenging the bottom of the sea and they would also eat smaller pieces of meat, even shrimp.
The porcelain crab is one of the most fragile creatures that populate reef eco-systems – little beauties that protect themselves even if the fight costs them their limbs.