Tree-climbing crab species found in Western Ghats

Tree-climbing crab species found in Western Ghats

In the Western Ghats, scientists have spotted India's first crab that spends its whole life on a tree.
The new species has been named Kani maranjandu after the Kani tribe, who helped discover the tree crab. Maranjandu is the Malayanam name for tree crab.
During a two year survey of the freshwater crab fauna in Kerala, the natives of Kanikkaran (also known as Kani) reported sightings to the survey team of “long-legged" tree crabs in the area.
While early attempts to capture them proved futile, the Indo-Singaporean team was finally able to capture a female specimen on September 5, 2016. They also found a large adult male later.
The specimens examined are deposited in the Zoological Survey of India and in the museum collection of the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala.
The discovery is important in the context of conservation of the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspots as they can serve as ecological indicators, reflecting the health of the ecosystem.
“There are only three arboreal (tree living) crabs known in the world. They occur in Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Borneo. Ours is the fourth in the world and first in India,” Appukuttannair Biju Kumar, a Kerala university scientist, who was a part of the study team, told DH.
In Maharashtra, there is a crab, which spends part of its life in the trees. But it comes down to water for mating and breeding. The Kerala crab, on the other hand, spends its life on the tree as the water stored in the hollows in the large tree serve their purpose.
“As water holding hollows in large trees are essential for the survival of this unique species, the discovery also stress the need for conservation of large trees in the degraded forest ecosystems of the Western Ghats,” he said.
This first tree-climbing crab of India has very long walking legs that are slender, strongly curved and very sharp. These features coupled with sharp ‘fingers’ make them very effective climbers.
Its distinguishing characters include: the structure of its hard upper shell, as well as its male abdominal structure and reproductive parts, and of course, its diagnostic elongated walking legs, which no other genus has.
The discovery has been reported in The Journal of Crustacean Biology.

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