Australian Biological Resources Study

Species Bank Home

Paragrapsus laevis (Family Grapsidae)

Spotted Smooth Shore Crab



The Spotted Smooth Shore Crab occurs in eastern Australia, ranging from Moreton Bay, Queensland, southwards through New South Wales to Tasmania. (QLD, NSW, VIC, TAS)


A large, gregarious crab distinguished by its large, equal-sized purple-brown and red claws and its grey, reddish or yellow-marked, shiny-black carapace. The markings may range in size from flecks to spots, or patches with irregular areas between. The undersurface is cream-yellow in colour. The front and rear edges of the carapace are roughly parallel; the sides curve outwards evenly, with two edge teeth on each side. It is some 30-45 mm wide, and is covered with very small granules. The front edge of the carapace has two frontal lobes, with a deeper division between them than in its more southerly relative, the Mottled Shore Crab, Paragrapsus gaimardii. The claws of adult males are massive and much larger than those of females. The first walking leg is felted with hairs over the entire anterior face of the second last segment.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Spotted Smooth Shore Crab is found high on sheltered muddy shores of coastal rivers and estuaries, usually under pieces of wood, large rocks and boulders. It often occurs in mangrove areas. It rarely scuttles about in the open, unless it is uncovered, and never occurs on exposed rocky areas of the coast. It lives intertidally under stones or in burrows at about mean sea level, and does not move very far into estuaries.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

This crab takes advantage of the shelter offered by the introduction of certain kinds of pollution in our estuaries, such as pieces of wood, building materials and sheets of metal lying on sand-mud shores. It appears to prefer this habitat, as it crawls under the edges of these flat materials, especially if there is a small gap to gain entrance to broad arching cover.

Other Comments:

James D. Dana, who described this species in 1852, was a member of the United States Exploring Expedition that sailed in 1839 to research the oceans; he became a well-known crustacean biologist, and an important American scientist.

Further Reading:

Bennett, I. (1987). W.J. Dakin's classic study: Australian Seashores. p.231, Angus & Robertson.

Campbell, B.M. & Griffen, D.J.G. (1966). The Australian Sesarminae (Crustacea: Brachyura): Genera Helice, Helograpsus, Cyclograpsus and Paragrapsus. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 14(5), 127-74.

Davey, K. (1988). A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.54, New Holland Press.

Edgar, G.J. (1997). Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. p.214, Reed.

Jones, D. & Morgan, G. (1994). A Field Guide to Crustaceans of Australian Waters. p.189, Reed.

Marine Research Group of Victoria. (1984). Coastal Invertebrates of Victoria: an atlas of selected species. p.119, Museum of Victoria.


Text, map and photograph by Keith Davey.

Sponsorship welcomed:

Please Contact ABRS if you wish to discuss sponsoring this or other pages.

Images and Multi-media:  
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 12459 bytes Spotted Smooth Shore Crab
Attached Image  
image/jpeg 12829 bytes Spotted Smooth Shore Crab
Distribution Map  
image/gif 973 bytes Distribution of Spotted Smooth Shore Crab

Return to Species Bank home



   Links to another web site
   Opens a pop-up window