Sesarma reticulatum

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Sesarma reticulatum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Infraorder: Brachyura
Family: Grapsidae
Genus: Sesarma
Species: S. reticulatum
Binomial name
Sesarma reticulatum
(Say, 1817)[1]

Sesarma reticulatum, the purple marsh crab or simply marsh crab, is a crab species native to the salt marshes of the eastern United States.


The range of S. reticulatum extends from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to Volusia County, Florida; a related species occurs in the Gulf of Mexico.[2]


Sesarma reticulatum is purple or brown, with darker speckles, with a carapace up to 1 inch (25 mm) long.[3] It can be distinguished from the closely related S. cinereum by the presence of a second tooth around the orbit of each eye.[4]


Their overpopulation, caused by over-harvesting by recreational fishermen of its natural predators such as blue crabs, striped bass, smooth dogfish and cod, has been blamed for the decline in cordgrass found in the salt marshes of Cape Cod and the decrease in the extent of salt marshes on the Atlantic coast of North America due to increased erosion. The explosion in the population of sesarma crabs has provided additional food to night herons. The crabs eat marsh grass not only from above but underground in tunnels they construct. The research demonstrates the possible cumulative ecological impact of popular human activities such as recreational fishing.[5][6]


  1. ^ Peter Davie (2011). "Sesarma reticulatum (Say, 1817)". World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ Todd L. Zimmerman & Darryl L. Felder (1991). "Reproductive ecology of an intertidal brachyuran crab, Sesarma sp. (nr. reticulatum), from the Gulf of Mexico" (PDF). The Biological Bulletin. 181: 387–401. JSTOR 1542359. 
  3. ^ Richard E. Mulstay (1999). "Marsh crabs". In Eugene H. Kaplan. A Field Guide to Southeastern and Caribbean Seashores: Cape Hatteras to the Gulf Coast, Florida, and the Caribbean (2nd ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-395-97516-9. 
  4. ^ Susan B. Rothschild (2004). "Life in the marsh debris". Beachcomber's Guide to Gulf Coast Marine Life: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida (3rd ed.). Taylor Trade Publications. p. 68. ISBN 978-1-58979-061-2. 
  5. ^ Richard C. Lewis (November 19, 2007). "Cape salt marsh decline linked to native crab". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  6. ^ Mark D. Bertness, Andrew H. Altieri, Tyler C. Coverdale, Nicholas C. Herrmann & Christine Angelini (2012). "A trophic cascade triggers collapse of a salt marsh ecosystem with intensive recreational fishing". Ecology. 93 (6): 1402–1410. doi:10.1890/11-1314.1.