A field guide to Kenyan mangroves


Parasesarma leptosoma Hilgendorf, 1896

Family: Sesarmidae

Zone: Rhizophora mucronata and Bruguiera gymnorrhiza forests - very common in Dabasso Kenya (Mida Creek).

Habitat: Climbs on Rhizophora mucronata and Bruguiera gymnorrhiza trees; strictly mangrove dependent.

Food: Consumes fresh leaves from the tree. Usually found on Rhizophora mucronata (Vannini and Ruwa, 1994), but a preliminary experiment hints that they prefer Bruguiera gymnorrhiza leaves (Gillikin, 2000). Also eats algae, mollusks, insects and annelids (Dahdouh-Guebas et al., 1999).

Ecological notes: Adapted an aerial strategy where they can climb trees to avoid the incoming tide; never seen on the forest floor. Both true arboreal species, the American Aratus pisonii Milne-Edwards, 1837 and the East African S. leptosoma, show morphological adaptations to life in the trees , namely a flat carapace, relatively long walking leg carpus and propodus and short dactylus (Hartnoll, 1988; Vannini et al., 1997).

Distinguishing characteristics: Found climbing trunks of trees to canopy; propodus three times longer than dactylus, carpace width ~ 2 cm.

Geographical range: East Africa, including Mozambique and South Africa (Emmerson et al., 2003).


Cannicci, S., F. Dahdouh-Guebas and L. Montemagno, 1993. Field Keys for Kenyan Mangrove Crabs. Museo Zoologico "La Specola", Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e Genetica dell'UniversitÓ Degli Studi di Firenze, Via Romana 17, I-50125 Firenze, Italia.

Dahdouh-Guebas, F., M. Giuggioli, A. Oluoch, M. Vannini & S. Cannicci, 1999. Feeding habits of non-ocypodid crabs from two mangrove forests in Kenya. Bull. Mar. Sci. 64(2): 291-297.

Emmerson, W., Cannicci, S., Porri, F., 2003. New records for Parasesarma leptosoma (Hilgendorf, 1869) (Crustacea : Decapoda : Brachyura : Sesarmidae) from mangroves in Mozambique and South Africa. AFRICAN ZOOLOGY 38(2): 351-355.

Gillikin, D.P., 2000. Factors controlling the distribution of Kenyan brachyuran mangrove crabs: Salinity tolerance and ecophysiology of two Kenyan Neosarmatium species. M.Sc. Thesis, Free University of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium.

Hartnoll, R.G., 1988. Evolution, systematics, and geographical distribution. In: W.W. Burggren and B.R. McMahon (eds.) Biology of the Land Crabs Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK. Pp 6-54.

Vannini, M. and R.K. Ruwa, 1994. Vertical migrations in the tree crab Sesarma leptosoma (Decapoda, Grapsidae). Marine Biology 118:271-278.

Vannini, M., S. Cannicci and R.K. Ruwa, 1995. Effect of light intensity on vertical migration of the tree crab, Sesarma leptosoma Hilgendorf (Decapoda, Grapsidae). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 185:181-189.

Vannini, M., A. Oluoch and R.K. Ruwa, 1997. Tree-climbing decapods of Kenyan mangroves. In Kjerfve, Bj÷rn, Luiz Drude de Lacerdaand El Hadji Salif Diop (eds.). Mangrove ecosystem studies in Latin America and Africa. UNESCO Technical Papers in Marine Science, Paris, France: 325-338.

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all text and photographs copyright© 2002 David Gillikin and Anouk Verheyden
Created 05 January 2000

Updated 25-Apr-2004