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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Infraorder: Brachyura
Superfamily: Cryptochiroidea
Paul'son, 1875
Family: Cryptochiridae
Paul'son, 1875

21, See text

Cryptochiridae is a family of crabs known commonly as gall crabs or coral gall crabs. They live inside dwellings in corals and cause the formation of galls in the coral structure.[1][2] The family is currently placed in its own superfamily, Cryptochiroidea.

Gall crabs are sexually dimorphic, with males being much smaller than females. Contrary to females, most males are free-living and "visit" females for mating.[1][3]

These crabs are most common in shallow waters where they live in association with stony corals, but they have also been recorded from mesophotic zones and deep waters.[4][5] They likely feed on mucus secreted by their coral hosts, as well as various detritus. Some species are thought to be filter feeders. [1]

Because crab size is related to gall size, it is likely that the crabs form the galls, rather than living randomly in a dwelling within a coral. Related groups of gall crab taxa share a similar gall type, suggesting that the crabs influence the morphology of the galls.[6]

The family contains the following twenty-one genera:[7][8]


  1. ^ a b c Johnsson, R., et al. (2006). The association of two gall crabs (Brachyura: Cryptochiridae) with the reef-building coral Siderastrea stellata Verrill, 1868. Hydrobiologia 559(1), 379-84.
  2. ^ Kropp, R. K. (1990). Revision of the genera of gall crabs (Crustacea: Cryptochiridae) occurring in the Pacific Ocean. Pacific Science 44(4) 417-48.
  3. ^ van der Meij, S.E.T. (2014). Host species, range extensions, and an observation of the mating system of Atlantic shallow-water gall crabs (Decapoda: Cryptochiridae) Bulletin of Marine Science 90,1001-1010.
  4. ^ van der Meij, S.E.T., et al. (2015). A mesophotic record of the gall crab Opecarcinus hypostegus from a Curaçaoan reef. Bulletin of Marine Science 91, 205-206.
  5. ^ van Tienderen, K.M. & S.E.T. van der Meij (2016). Occurrence patterns of coral-dwelling gall crabs (Cryptochiridae) over depth intervals in the Caribbean. PeerJ 4, e1794.
  6. ^ Wei, T. P., et al. (2013). Gall polymorphism of coral-inhabiting crabs (Decapoda, Cryptochiridae): a new perspective. Journal of Marine Science and Technology 21, 304-07.
  7. ^ WoRMS |url= |title= Cryptochiridae |accessdate=March 13, 2016
  8. ^ P. K. L. Ng, D. Guinot & P. J. F. Davie (2008). "Systema Brachyurorum: Part I. An annotated checklist of extant Brachyuran crabs of the world" (PDF). Raffles Bulletin of Zoology. 17: 1–286. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-06.