Sand bubbler crab

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Sand bubbler crabs
Kometsukigani 06g0139v.jpg
Scopimera globosa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Infraorder: Brachyura
Family: Dotillidae
Genus: Scopimera
De Haan, 1833
Stimpson, 1858

See text

Sand bubbler crabs (or sand-bubblers) are crabs of the genera Scopimera and Dotilla[1] in the family Dotillidae.[2] They are small crabs that live on sandy beaches in the tropical Indo-Pacific. They feed by filtering sand through their mouthparts, leaving behind balls of sand[3] that are disintegrated by the incoming high tide.


Sand bubbler crabs are small crabs, around 1 cm (0.4 in) across the carapace, and they are characterised by the presence of "gas windows" on the merus of the legs; in Dotilla, these windows are also present on the thoracic sternites.[1] A similar system has evolved in parallel in the porcelain crab genus Petrolisthes.[4]


Sand bubbler crabs are widespread across the Indo-Pacific region, where they occur abundantly on sandy beaches in the tropics and sub-tropics.[1]

Ecology and behaviour[edit]

Scopimera globosa and the sand pellets it has made

Sand bubbler crabs live in burrows in the sand, where they remain during high tide. When the tide is out, they emerge on to the surface of the sand, and pass the sand through their mouthparts, eating detritus and plankton,[5] and discarding the processed sand as pellets, which cover the beach. The crabs work radially from the entrance to their burrows, which they re-enter as the tide rises and disintegrates the pellets.[6] In each burrow, the crab waits out the high tide in a bubble of air.[5] The material consumed by sand bubbler crabs has a very low concentration of organic matter, which is concentrated by egestion of indigestible material.[7]


Taxonomic history[edit]

The first sand bubbler crab to be described was Cancer sulcatus (now Dotilla sulcata) by Peter Forsskål in 1775. The genus Scopimera was originally described as a subgenus of Ocypode by Wilhem de Haan in 1833, although the first species, Scopimera globosa was not validly described until 1835.[2] At the same time, De Haan tried to erect the genus Doto for Forskål's Cancer sulcatus, not realising that the name was preoccupied by the mollusc genus Doto. The first available name for that genus was published by William Stimpson in 1858, who called it Dotilla. Ongoing revisions are likely to split the current genus Scopimera into at least two genera.[2]


Eight species of Dotilla and fifteen of Scopimera are currently recognised:[2]


  1. ^ a b c David P. Maitland (1986). "Crabs that breathe air with their legs - Scopimera and Dotilla". Nature. 319 (6053): 493–495. doi:10.1038/319493a0. 
  2. ^ a b c d Peter K. L. Ng, Danièle Guinot & Peter 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. 
  3. ^ Fothergill, Alastair; Cordey, Huw (2015-10-22). The Hunt. Ebury Publishing. p. 138. ISBN 9781448141890. 
  4. ^ Peter Greenaway (1999). "Physiological diversity and the colonization of land". In Frederick R. Schram & J. C. von Vaupel Klein. Crustaceans and the Biodiversity Crisis: Proceedings of the Fourth International Crustacean Congress, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, July 20–24, 1998. Crustacean Issues. 12. Brill. pp. 823–842. ISBN 978-90-04-11387-9. 
  5. ^ a b "Legs that are made for breathing". New Scientist. 1986-02-20. 
  6. ^ Robin G. C. Bathurst (1975). "The Trucial coast embayment, Persian Gulf". Carbonate Sediments and their Diagenesis. Developments in Sedimentology. 12 (2nd ed.). Elsevier. pp. 178–211. ISBN 978-0-444-41353-6. 
  7. ^ J. L. Chapman & M. J. Reiss (1999). "The individual". Ecology: Principles and Applications (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 5–15. ISBN 978-0-521-58802-7. 
  8. ^ a b Kingsley J. H. Wong, Hsi-Te Shih & Benny K. K. Chan (2011). "Two new species of sand-bubbler crabs, Scopimera, from North China and the Philippines (Crustacea: Decapoda: Dotillidae)" (PDF). Zootaxa. 2962: 21–35. 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Scopimera at Wikimedia Commons