A field guide to Kenyan mangroves

species list


Matuta lunaris (Forskal, 1775)

Family: Calappidea


Zone: Can be found on tidal sand flats in front of mangroves. Common in sandy to muddy open areas,

Habitat: Sand flats near mangroves, not a real mangrove crab, but often associated with them. Can occur in deeper waters (Richmond, 1997).

Food: Most probably omnivourous; eats other crabs (pers. obs.; Hazlett, 1997). Serious predator of flat fishes (Hossain et al., 2002; Fatima, 2003; Saitoh et al., 2003).

Ecological notes: These crabs normally burrow just below the surface during the day. They forage for small shellfish, worms and other animals at night (Tan and Ng, 1988). Their paddle-like legs are for swimming and digging.

Distinguishing characteristics: Prominant spines on carapace (see photos). All legs flattened. Shell width up to 5cm. Common name = moon crab

Geographical range: Indo-Pacific (Richmond, 1997).


Fatima, M., 2003. Length Weight Study of Two Species of Crabs Matuta planipes and Matuta lunaris from Karachi, Pakistan. Pakistan Journal of Biological Science, 6 (4): 397-398.

Hazlett, BA, 1997. The organisation of behaviour in hermit crabs: Responses to variation in stimulus strength. BEHAVIOUR, 134: 59-70

Hossain, MAR; Tanaka, M; Masuda, R, 2002. Predator-prey interaction between hatchery-reared Japanese flounder juvenile, Paralichthys olivaceus, and sandy shore crab, Matuta lunaris: daily rhythms, anti-predator conditioning and starvation. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL MARINE BIOLOGY AND ECOLOGY, 267 (1): 1-14

Richmond, M.D., 1997. A guide to the Seashores of Eastern Africa and the Western Indian Ocean Islands. Sida / Department for Research Cooperation, SAREC. Zanzibar, Tanzania. 448 pp.

Saitoh, K; Takagaki, M; Yamashita, Y, 2003.Detection of Japanese flounder-specific DNA from gut contents of potential predators in the field. FISHERIES SCIENCE, 69 (3): 473-477

Tan, L.W.H. & Ng, P.K.L., 1988. A Guide to Seashore Life. The Singapore Science Centre, Singapore. 160 pp. (online at http://mangrove.nus.edu.sg/pub/seashore/)

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all text and photographs copyrightę 2002-2016 David Gillikin and Anouk Verheyden
Created 28 August 2001

Updated June 24, 2016