Creature Feature: long-eyed swimmer crab

Andrew Hosie's blog | Created 9 years ago

Podophthalmus vigil (Fabricius, 1798), the long-eyed swimmer crab.

There are approximately 100 species of swimming or paddle crabs in Australian waters, the most familiar being the tasty blue swimmer and mud crabs. The remarkable long-eyed swimmer crab is easily identified by its enormously long eye stalks – a feature not seen in any other species of Australian swimming crab. The long-eyed swimmer crab is found in shallow sandy or muddy areas in tropical regions of the Indo-Pacific, having been found from the Red Sea, South Africa to Japan and Hawaii.

A female long-eyed swimmer crab.

A female long-eyed swimmer crab.
Image copyright WA Museum

The long-eyed swimmer crab is an active swimmer, and is presumably able to swim down small fish, shrimp and other invertebrates on which it feeds. The function of the long eye stalks are a bit of an enigma, but are common in crabs like fiddler crabs and ghost crabs that inhabit sand or mud flats. The ability to raise the eyes above the body allows the animal to see longer distances and possibly allow the crab to keep the eyes in clearer water above the turbid silt.A female long-eyed swimmer crab.

This particular specimen was caught near Cassini Island in a cast net while it was swimming near the surface, apparently attracted by the lights on the back of the boat.