Invasive Species Compendium

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Charybdis japonica
(lady crab)

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Datasheet

Charybdis japonica (lady crab)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Charybdis japonica
  • Preferred Common Name
  • lady crab
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Crustacea
  •         Class: Malacostraca
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. japonica is a large portunid crab native to coastal marine environments of the western Pacific. Introduced to New Zealand, it was first discovered in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour in 2000 (...

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Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Charybdis japonica A. Milne-Edwards, 1861

Preferred Common Name

  • lady crab

Local Common Names

  • Japan: ishigani; rock crab

Summary of Invasiveness

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C. japonica is a large portunid crab native to coastal marine environments of the western Pacific. Introduced to New Zealand, it was first discovered in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour in 2000 (Webber, 2001). By April 2002 the invader had spread widely throughout the harbour (Gust and Inglis, 2006). It appears to have become established there and was still found to be widespread in the harbour in April 2008 (Willis and Morrisey, 2008). C. japonica may impact native estuarine faunal assemblages as an opportunistic predator of benthic invertebrates, particularly small, native shellfish. In its native range it is a host or carrier of the white spot syndrome virus, a serious fisheries threat to a broad spectrum of crustaceans (Lightner, 1996; Maeda et al., 1998). Listed as one of ten most likely invaders into Australian marine waters C. japonica is categorized as a 'medium high priority' species based on its invasion potential/impact (Hayes et al., 2005).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Crustacea
  •                 Class: Malacostraca
  •                     Subclass: Eumalacostraca
  •                         Order: Decapoda
  •                             Family: Portunidae
  •                                 Genus: Charybdis
  •                                     Species: Charybdis japonica

Description

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C. japonica is a large (up to 110 mm carapace width) portunid (swimming) crab, with a typical portunid body-form. The carapace and limbs are pilose (hairy), though the extent of cover varies considerably within populations. In some New Zealand individuals it is confined to recesses in the carapace, between anterolateral spines on the carapace, and in recesses on the chelae. Maximum size (carapace width) in Korean population is 109 mm (males) and 96 mm (females). Corresponding values for New Zealand population are 110 mm and 90 mm (Miller et al., 2006). Detailed descriptions of external morphology are given by Wee and Ng (1995) and Smith et al., (2003). The colour of the New Zealand population is very variable, ranging from pale green and off-white, thorough olive green to deep chestnut with purplish markings on the carapace and upper surfaces of the appendages (Smith et al., 2003). Most specimens from New Zealand also have yellow-orange markings, particularly on the chelae. There seem to be few published descriptions of colour in individuals from its native range, but Wee and Ng (1995) describe the colour of crabs from Japan as “dorsal surface mottled cream and purple”.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes

Asia

ChinaPresent, WidespreadNativeWide native distribution in eastern Asia. Native range from northern China to malaysia, and includes coastal areas of Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and China.
-LiaoningPresentNative
JapanPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HonshuPresentNative
-KyushuPresentNative
-Ryukyu IslandsPresentNative
MalaysiaPresent, WidespreadNative
South KoreaPresent, WidespreadNative
TaiwanPresent, WidespreadNative
ThailandPresentNative

North America

United StatesPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HawaiiPresentNative

Oceania

Australia
-South AustraliaAbsent, Formerly present2000In December 2000, a single mature male specimen of Charybdis japonica was found in the port river of Adelaide, South Australia. Despite further intensive searches, no additional specimens were collected from this location.
New ZealandPresent, Localized2008Introduced2000InvasiveWidespread in Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. Occasional specimens detected in other northeastern New Zealand estuaries.

History of Introduction and Spread

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First recorded in September 2000 in the Rangitoto Channel near the entrance to Waitemata Harbour, Auckland, New Zealand and the following (austral) summer inside the harbour. It has since been recorded during all trapping programmes in the harbour (in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008). It has also been found on several occasions in two other, nearby harbours approximately 36 km to the north (Mahurangi Harbour) and approximately 10 km southeast (Tamaki Estuary) of Waitemata Harbour (Gust and Inglis, 2006; M Morrison, NIWA, New Zealand, personal communication, 2008). In September 2003 a single specimen (a mature female) was collected in Whangarei Harbour, on the northeast coast of the North Island, but none has been captured since in this location despite regular trapping programmes (in 2004, 2006 and 2008).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
New Zealand 2000 Hitchhiker (pathway cause) Yes Gust and Inglis (2006); Webber (2001); Willis and Morrisey (2008) To Waitematata Harbour (Auckland) probably from east Asia, either via ballast water or ships’ hulls, consistently present since 2000
South Australia 2000 Hitchhiker (pathway cause)Poore (2004) To Port Rover, Adelaide probably from East Asia via ballast water or ships' hulls. A single mature male. Not found in subsequent searches

Risk of Introduction

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Given the volume of shipping between ports in the species’ native range and those in Australia and New Zealand, further introductions are not unlikely. Spread within its introduced range is very likely by natural dispersion of adults and larvae (gravid females have been caught in New Zealand) or by shipping-related vectors (ballast water or hull fouling (Smith et al., 2003)). Since the species is eaten by humans in its native range, and is the target of a commercial fishery, deliberate introduction or translocation is possible (Smith et al., 2003; Vazquez Archdale and Kuwahara, 2005).

Habitat

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In its native range it occurs in intertidal and subtidal habitats to depths of about 15 m, including sandy and muddy or stony bottoms with seaweed (Smith et al., 2003; Vazquez Archdale and Kuwahara, 2005). In Korea, juveniles (less than 25 mm carapace width) occur in seagrass (Zostera marina) beds (Hu and An, 1998, cited in Smith et al., 2003). In the Waitemata Harbour, New Zealand, it occurs in a range of substrata from fine, silty muds to coarse, shelly sands, sandstone reefs, and beds of the introduced bivalve Musculista senhousia, and in water depths from 1-13 m (Gust and Inglis, 2006).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Marine
MarineInshore marine Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
MarineInshore marine Principal habitat Natural
MarineBenthic zone Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
MarineBenthic zone Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

See Smith et al. (2003) for a study on the DNA and morphological identification of C. japonica in New Zealand waters.

Reproductive Biology 


In Japan, C. japonica releases larvae in late summer (Oishi and Saigusa, 1997). Wang et al. (1996), cited in Smith et al. (2003), described a bimodal reproductive season in China, with spawning in spring and autumn when sea temperatures are between 20 and 28°C. Females may produce multiple broods each year. Some species of Charybdis are able to store sperm and produce several broods from a single mating (Dineen et al., 2001).
 
Nutrition

Generalist predator, predominantly on benthic bivalves, crustaceans, fish and cephalopods (Jiang et al., 1998 in Smith et al., 2003).
 
Environmental Requirements

In its native range, C. japonica occurs in areas where sea temperatures range from -1 to 34°C (Qiyuan and Dongdong, 2004; Gust and Inglis, 2006). If breeding only occurs at water temperatures above 20°C, as cited above, its breeding period in the Waitemata Harbour, New Zealand may be restricted because maximum mean monthly temperature only reaches 21°C (Gust and Inglis, 2006). 

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Depth (m b.s.l.) 1 15 Harmful Values shown for shallow subtidal in New Zealand, also intertidal in Japan and other parts of native range
Water temperature (ºC temperature) -1 34 Optimum Minimum temperature -1 for location in northern China (Qiyuan and Dongdong, 2004)

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Heterosaccus papillosus Parasite Adult

Notes on Natural Enemies

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In New Zealand the similarly-sized native portunid Ovalipes catharus is preyed on by various species of fish (McLay, 1988) and it is likely that the same species would also consume C. japonica, though the latter is reputed to be more aggressive than the native species (Webber, 2001).

In Korea, C. japonica is host to the parasitic rhizocephalan barnacle Heterosaccus papillosus but reported infection rates were low (3.8% of females and 1% of males) (Kim, 2001) and it is not known what effect they may have on the population dynamics of their host.

This parasite was not recorded during a study of parasites of C. japonica in New Zealand, even though the sample size had a high estimated probability (79%) of detecting at least one individual infected with a rhizocephalan if it was present in the New Zealand population (Miller et al., 2006). Very few other parasites were found in the sample of C. japonica or in sympatric and allopatric populations of the native Ovalipes catharus. An unidentified juvenile ascaridoid nematode was found in the hindgut of 5-9% of the C. japonica examined. Melanised lesions were noted in the muscle tissue of 46.6% of the C. japonica examined, some of which were spherical bodies resembling melanised trematode metacercariae. Low levels of infection with parasites are consistent with arrival of the species in New Zealand as larvae via ships’ ballast water.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)


Likely to include dispersal of larvae (Oishi and Saigusa, 1997) and swimming adults by water currents.

 
Natural Dispersal (Biotic)

Likely to include swimming and walking by juveniles and adults.

 
Accidental Introduction

Vectors for introduction to New Zealand and Australia unknown but possibly as larvae in ships’ ballast water and/or juveniles and adults among fouling assemblages on ships’ hulls, especially recesses such as sea chests. A single individual of the related Charybdis helleri was collected from the sea chest of a fishing vessel taken out of the water for maintenance in Nelson, at the top of the South Island of New Zealand in 2000 (Dodgshun and Coutts, 2003).

 

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Cultural/amenity Negative
Economic/livelihood Positive and negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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Possible adverse effects on populations of commercially important, estuarine bivalves in introduced range (Gust and Inglis, 2006). Potential distribution of C. japonica in New Zealand may not overlap substantially with that of the only commercially important native portunid crab (Ovalipes catharus), reducing the likelihood of direct competition between them (Gust and Inglis, 2006). C. japonica is also a known host of the white-spot syndrome virus, a serious fisheries threat to a broad range of crustaceans (Lightner, 1996; Maeda et al., 1998), though the New Zealand population has not so far been found to carry it.

Environmental Impact

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See comments in section on Economic Impact for potential effects of predation on native bivalve populations on disease on native crustaceans.

Risk and Impact Factors

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Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Long lived
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of natural benthic communities
  • Negatively impacts cultural/traditional practices
  • Negatively impacts livelihoods
  • Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition (unspecified)
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Interaction with other invasive species
  • Predation
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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Economic Value


Target of commercial fishery for human consumption throughout its native range (Smith et al., 2003; Vazquez Archdale and Kuwahara, 2005).

 

Uses List

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Human food and beverage

  • Meat/fat/offal/blood/bone (whole, cut, fresh, frozen, canned, cured, processed or smoked)

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Very similar to other portunids in general and to other members of the same genus in particular (Webber, 2001; Smith et al., 2003).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Lack of basic information on biology and ecology, including environmental tolerances and requirements, reproductive biology, natural and human-related dispersal, and ecological interactions (predation and competition) in native and introduced range.

References

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Dineen JF; Clark PF; Anson HH; Reed SH; Walton HP, 2001. Life history, larval description, and natural history of Charybdis helleri (Decapoda, Brachyura, Portunidae), an invasive crab in the western Atlantic. Journal of Crustacean Biology, 21:774-805.

Dodgshun T; Coutts A, 2003. Opening the lid on sea chests. Seafood New Zealand, 11(2):35.

Edmondson CH, 1954. Hawaiian Portunidae. Occasional Papers of the BP Bishop Museum, 21:217-274.

Gust N; Inglis GJ, 2006. Adaptive multi-scale sampling to determine an invasive crab's habitat usage and range in New Zealand. Biological Invasions, 8(2):339-353. http://www.springerlink.com/content/f33x275051185318/?p=1e71bc6b8e8e4352a88b95f0c64be648&pi=19

Hayes K; Sliwa C; Migus S; McEnnulty F; Dunstan P, 2005. National priority pests: Part II Ranking of Australian marine pests. An independent report undertaken for the Department of Environment and Heritage by CSIRO Marine Research. http://www.marine.csiro.au/crimp/reports/PriorityPestsFinalreport.pdf

Jiang W; Meng T; Chen R; Wei S, 1998. Diet of Charybdis japonica (A. Milne-Edwards) and Portunus trituberculatus (Miers) in the Bohai Sea. Marine Fisheries Research/Haiyan Shuichan Yanjiu, 19:53-59.

Kim KB, 2001. Growth and reproduction of Charybdis japonica (A. Milne-Edwards) (Decapoda: Portunidae) in Korean waters. Busan, Korea: Pukyong National University. [Unpublished PhD thesis.]

Lightner DV, 1996. A handbook of shrimp pathology and diagnostic procedures for diseases of cultured penaeid shrimp. Baton Rouge, USA: World Aquaculture Society.

Maeda M; Itami T; Furumoto A; Hennig O; Imamura T; Kondo M; Hirono I; Aoki T; Takahashi Y, 1998. Detection of penaeid rod-shaped DNA virus (PRDV) in wild-caught shrimp and other crustaceans. In: Gyobyo Kenkyu = Fish Pathology, 373-380.

McLay CL, 1998. Brachyura and crab-like Anomura of New Zealand. Leigh Laboratory Bulletin, No. 22.

Miller A; Inglis GJ; Poulin R, 2006. Comparison of the ectosymbionts and parasites of an introduced crab, Charybdis japonica, with sympatric and allopatric populations of a native New Zealand crab, Ovalipes catharus (Brachyura: Portunidae). New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 40:369-378.

Oishi K; Saigusa M, 1997. Nighttime emergence patterns of planktonic and benthic crustaceans in a shallow subtidal environment. Journal of Oceanography, 53:611-621.

Poore GCB, 2004. Marine decapod crustacea of southern Australia: a guide to identification [ed. by Poore GCB]. Collingwood, Australia: CSIRO Publishing, ix + 574 pp.

Qiyuan GE; Dongdong XIA, 2004. Proceedings of the APEC/MRC/OMISAR Fourteenth Workshop on Ocean Models, 26-29 October 2004, Tainan, Chinese Taipei. http://ivy3.epa.gov.tw/OMISAR/Data/WOM14/proceedings/11.pdf

Smith PJ; Webber WR; McVeagh SM; Inglis GJ; Gust N, 2003. DNA and morphological identification of an invasive swimming crab Charybdis japonica (A. Milne-Edwards 1861) in New Zealand waters. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 37:753-762.

Vazquez Archdale M; Kuwahara O, 2005. Comparative fishing trials for Charybdis japonica using collapsible box-shaped and dome-shaped pots. Fisheries Science, 71:1229-1235.

Wang C; Xue L; Liu F; Pan J, 1996. The preliminary study on reproductive biology of Charybdis japonica (A. Milne-Edwards). Journal of the Zhjian College of Fisheries, 15:261-266.

Webber R, 2001. Space invaders, crabs that turn up in New Zealand unannounced. Seafood New Zealand, 9(10):80-84.

Wee DPC; Ng PKL, 1995. Swimming crabs of the genera Charybdis de Haan, 1833, and Thalamita Latreille, 1829 (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Portunidae) from Peninsula Malaysia and Singapore. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, Supplement 1:127.

Willis K; Morrisey D, 2008. Annual report for the Port of Auckland 2007/2008 (Project 10623). Christchurch, New Zealand: NIWA Ltd, 18. [Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Biosecurity New Zealand Technical Report, June 2008.]

Distribution References

CABI, Undated. CABI Compendium: Status inferred from regional distribution. Wallingford, UK: CABI

CABI, Undated a. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI

Edmondson C H, 1954. Hawaiian Portunidae. Occasional Papers of the BP Bishop Museum. 217-274.

Gust N, Inglis G J, 2006. Adaptive multi-scale sampling to determine an invasive crab's habitat usage and range in New Zealand. Biological Invasions. 8 (2), 339-353. http://www.springerlink.com/content/f33x275051185318/?p=1e71bc6b8e8e4352a88b95f0c64be648&pi=19 DOI:10.1007/s10530-004-8243-y

Oishi K, Saigusa M, 1997. Nighttime emergence patterns of planktonic and benthic crustaceans in a shallow subtidal environment. Journal of Oceanography. 611-621.

Poore G C B, 2004. Marine decapod crustacea of southern Australia: a guide to identification. [ed. by Poore G C B]. Collingwood, Australia: CSIRO Publishing. ix + 574 pp.

Qiyuan G E, Xia D D, 2004. Demonstration engineering of artificial fish reef in the waters of Changxing Island in the Bohai Bay. In: Proceedings of the APEC/MRC/OMISAR Fourteenth Workshop on Ocean Models, 26-29 October 2004, Tainan, Chinese Taipei [Proceedings of the APEC/MRC/OMISAR Fourteenth Workshop on Ocean Models, 26-29 October 2004, Tainan, Chinese Taipei.], http://ivy3.epa.gov.tw/OMISAR/Data/WOM14/proceedings/11.pdf

Smith P J, Webber W R, McVeagh S M, Inglis G J, Gust N, 2003. DNA and morphological identification of an invasive swimming crab Charybdis japonica (A. Milne-Edwards 1861) in New Zealand waters. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research. 753-762.

Vazquez Archdale M, Kuwahara O, 2005. Comparative fishing trials for Charybdis japonica using collapsible box-shaped and dome-shaped pots. Fisheries Science. 1229-1235.

Webber R, 2001. Space invaders, crabs that turn up in New Zealand unannounced. Seafood New Zealand. 9 (10), 80-84.

Wee D P C, Ng P K L, 1995. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 127.

Willis K, Morrisey D, 2008. Annual report for the Port of Auckland 2007/2008 (Project 10623). Christchurch, New Zealand: NIWA Ltd. 18 pp.

Contributors

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28/07/08 Original text by:

N Gust, Department of Primary Industries and Water, Biodiversity and Conservation Branch, Wildlife & Marine Conservtion Section, PO Box 44, Hobart, 7001, Tasmania, New Zealand

Don Morrisey, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd, PO Box 893, Nelson, New Zealand

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