Pleuroncodes planipes

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Pleuroncodes planipes
Pleuroncodes planipes uzun.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Infraorder: Anomura
Family: Munididae
Genus: Pleuroncodes
P. planipes
Binomial name
Pleuroncodes planipes
Stimpson, 1860

Pleuroncodes planipes, sometimes called the pelagic red crab (or simply "red crab"), tuna crab or langostilla, is a species of squat lobster from the eastern Pacific Ocean.


Pleuroncodes planipes is a bright red animal, up to 13 centimetres (5.1 in) long.[1] It resembles a true lobster, but has a shorter abdomen.[2]

Taxonomic history[edit]

Pleuroncodes planipes was first described by William Stimpson in 1860.[3] In his description, Stimpson noted that P. planipes was very close to P. monodon,[4] the only other species in the genus.[3]


Pleuroncodes planipes lives on the continental shelf west of Mexico.[5] It is usually found only south-west of San Diego,[1] but in warmer years, its range may extend northwards into California.[5] This is usually indicative of an El Niño event.[6] Adults migrate vertically to near the ocean surface and large numbers occasionally wash up on beaches during warm water events.[5] The southern limit of the species' range is in Chile.[7]

Life cycle[edit]

The life cycle of Pleuroncodes planipes appeared for a long time to form a paradox: while an adult population was maintained along the south-western coast of the United States, the planktonic larvae they released were immediately swept by the California Current thousands of miles out to sea. A solution was proposed whereby the larvae use an opposing undercurrent at a lower depth to return to the continental shelf, and this hypothesis was confirmed by sampling different depths of water with a plankton recorder.[8]


Pleuroncodes planipes usually feeds on protists and zooplankton, but will feed by filtering blooms of diatoms.[9]

As the most abundant species of micronekton in the California Current, Pleuroncodes planipes fills an important ecological niche converting primary production into energy that larger organisms can use.[10] P. planipes is accordingly an important food item for many species of birds, marine mammals and fish. It is favoured by tuna, leading to one of the species' common names – "tuna crab".[1] Other fish known to feed on P. planipes include billfishes, yellowtail amberjack, sharks[11] and Epinephelus analogus.[12] The diets of gray whales,[13] Bryde's whales,[14] blue whales[14] and sea otters[15] all include P. planipes. The Mexican endemic bat Myotis vivesi also feeds on P. planipes at some times of the year.[16] Off Baja California, the stomachs of some loggerhead sea turtles have been observed to contain only P. planipes.[17] Since P. planipes may be washed ashore in large numbers, it can be a valuable addition to the diets of seabirds such as the herring gull (Larus argentuatus), whose food supply is usually diminished in El Niño years.[18]


  1. ^ a b c Sam Hinton (1987). "Phylum Arthropoda ("joint-limbed animals")". Seashore Life of Southern California: an Introduction to the Animal Life of California Beaches South of Santa Barbara. Issue 26 of California Natural History Guides (2nd ed.). University of California Press. pp. 131–161. ISBN 978-0-520-05924-5.
  2. ^ Wheeler J. North (1976). "Marine animals: arthropod crustacea, echinoderms, and tunicates". Underwater California. Volume 39 of California Natural History Guides. University of California Press. pp. 207–231. ISBN 978-0-520-03039-8.
  3. ^ a b Keiji Baba; Enrique Macpherson; Gary C. B. Poore; Shane T. Ahyong; Adriana Bermudez; Patricia Cabezas; Chia-Wei Lin; Martha Nizinski; Celso Rodrigues; Kareen E. Schnabel (2008). "Catalogue of squat lobsters of the world (Crustacea: Decapoda: Anomura – families Chirostylidae, Galatheidae and Kiwaidae)" (PDF). Zootaxa. 1905: 1–220. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.1905.1.1.
  4. ^ William Stimpson (1860). "Notes on North American Crustacea, No. 1". Annals of the Lyceum of Natural History of New York. 7 (1): 49–93. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1862.tb00142.x.
  5. ^ a b c Janet Haig & Donald P. Abbott (1980). "Macrura and Anomura: the ghost shrimps, hermit crabs, and allies". In Robert Hugh Morris; Donald Putnam Abbott & Eugene Clinton Haderlie (eds.). Intertidal Invertebrates of California. Stanford University Press. pp. 577–593. ISBN 978-0-8047-1045-9.
  6. ^ Ronald H. McPeak; Dale A. Glantz; Carole R. Shaw (1988). "The ever-changing forest". The Amber Forest: Beauty and Biology of California's Submarine Forests. Aqua Quest Publications. pp. 32–41. ISBN 978-0-922769-00-1.
  7. ^ Kareen Schnabel & Amelia Connell (2007). "Lobster à la carte". Water & Atmosphere. 15 (4).
  8. ^ Ernest Naylor (2010). "Plankton vertical migration rhythms". Chronobiology of Marine Organisms. Cambridge University Press. pp. 134–149. ISBN 978-0-521-76053-9.
  9. ^ Alan R. Longhurst, Carl J. Lorenzen & William H. Thomas (1967). "The role of pelagic crabs in the grazing of phytoplankton off Baja California". Ecology. 48 (2): 190–200. doi:10.2307/1933100. JSTOR 1933100.
  10. ^ Carlos J. Robinson; Vicente Anislado; Antonio Lopez (2004). "The pelagic red crab (Pleuroncodes planipes) related to active upwelling sites in the California Current off the west coast of Baja California". Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. 51 (6–9): 753–766. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2004.05.018.
  11. ^ Michael H. Horn & Lara A. Ferry-Graham (2006). "Feeding mechanisms and trophic interactions". In Larry Glenn Allen; Daniel J. Pondella & Michael H. Horn (eds.). Ecology of Marine Fishes: California and Adjacent Waters. University of California Press. pp. 387–410. ISBN 978-0-520-24653-9.
  12. ^ Susan M. Luna & Nicolas Bailly (October 6, 2010). "Epinephelus analogus Gill, 1863, spotted grouper". FishBase. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
  13. ^ Robert Busch (1998). "The nature of the beast". Gray Whales: Wandering Giants. Heritage House Publishing. pp. 1–66. ISBN 978-1-55143-114-7.
  14. ^ a b Mercedes Guerrero, Jorge Urbán y Lorenzo Rojas (2006). "Conocimiento biológico de los cetáceos del Golfo de California". Las Ballenas del Golfo de California (in Spanish). Instituto Nacional de Ecología. pp. 157–406. ISBN 978-968-817-761-7.
  15. ^ James L. Bodkin (2003). George A. Feldhamer; Bruce Carlyle Thompson; Joseph A. Chapman (eds.). Wild Mammals of North America: Biology, Management, and Conservation (2nd ed.). JHU Press. pp. 735–743. ISBN 978-0-8018-7416-1.
  16. ^ William Lopez-Forment. "January 6, 2011. Isla Monserrat & Isla del Carmen". Daily Expedition Reports. Lindblad Expeditions & National Geographic. Archived from the original on July 10, 2011. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
  17. ^ "Caretta caretta (Linnaeus, 1758)". Species Fact Sheets. Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved February 15, 2011.
  18. ^ Brent S. Stewart, Pamela K. Yochem & Ralph W. Schreiber (1984). "Pelagic red crabs as food for gulls: a possible benefit of El Niño" (PDF). The Condor. 86 (3): 341–342. doi:10.2307/1367007. JSTOR 1367007.