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Biodiversity of brachyuran crabs (Crustacea: Decapoda) from Uran, Navi Mumbai, west coast of India.


In the present study, survey of brachyuran crabs for biodiversity was done along three substations; Sheva creek, Peerwadi coast and Dharamtar creek of Uran (Raigad), Navi Mumbai, west coast of India. Brachyuran crabs were collected during spring low tides from intertidal regions and shallow coastal waters monthly from June 2013 to May 2015. A total of 31 species of brachyuran crabs representing 20 genera and 11 families were identified. Of these, 9 species belongs to family Portunidae, 5 species each to Grapsidae and Xanthidae, 2 species each to Leucosiidae, Ocypodidae, Oziidae and Sesarmidae and 1 species each to Matutidae, Menippidae, Polybiidae and Porcellanidae. Maximum species diversity of brachyuran crabs is recorded during pre-monsoon and monsoon at open mud flats of Sheva creek and Dharamtar creek than rocky shore of Peerwadi coast. This could be attributed to the abiotic factors like wave action, slope and salinity of water which cause direct effect on diversity and distribution of brachyuran crabs inhabiting rocky shore habitat. The variation in abundance of brachyuran crabs at Uran coast could result from anthropogenic activities of Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT), port related establishments, overharvesting, habitat loss and discharge of domestic wastes, sewage and effluents to the coast. This study reveals that brachyuran crabs from Uran coast are facing threat due to industrial pollution and anthropogenic activities.

KEYWORDS: Anthropogenic activities, Brachyuran crabs, Biodiversity, Crustacea, Jawaharlal Nehru Port, Uran,


Marine ecosystem is most diverse ecosystem in the world and special attention and information is required to understand its processes and function because it provides shelter to diverse and unique floral and faunal community [29]. Coastal environment provides a greater range of habitats e. g. estuaries, lagoons, mangroves, salt marshes, rocky coasts, sandy stretches, coral reefs and thus potentially supports greater biodiversity [28]. Marine organisms play an important role in biodiversity research. It is one of the basis of aquaculture and also the foundation of ecosystem services [38].

Crustaceans are the important part of macro benthic fauna especially the infra order brachyura. Of the 2934 species of Crustacea that have been reported so far, marine species (94.85%) contribute maximum to this diversity [39]. Crustaceans are with a long evolutionary history and prominent adaptability [37]. Among benthic communities, crustaceans are important members because more number of species present for human consumption and a tremendous variety of small species contribute to the complexity and functioning of tropical ecosystems [26]. High diversity values of crustaceans are usually recorded in tropical and subtropical regions compared to temperate and cold regions [4]. Crustaceans are highly valuable commodities by virtue of their pivotal role in the seafood industry of the world [38].

One of the best known and most intensely studied groups is the true crabs of the infraorder Brachyura [12]. Brachyuran crabs belong to the Order Decapoda, the most diverse group of crustaceans alive today. Ng et al. [17] reported 6,793 species of brachyuran crabs belonging to 1,271 genera and 93 families in the world oceans. Due to their great abundance, they may be considered as one of the most relevant groups of the marine benthos, both in terms of biomass and community structure [4]. Venkataraman and Wafer [39] have reported 705 species of brachyuran crabs with 28 families and 270 genera from Indian coast. A total of 226 species of brachyuran crabs belonging to 130 genera and 39 families have been recorded from the west coast of India [12].

Crabs play important role in the maintenance of ecosystem and also in the marine food web demonstrating prey- predator relationship. The feeding activity and pellet formation by crabs changes the substratum characteristics, content of organic matter and controls the microalgal deposition [2]. Burrowing activity of crabs alter the surface characteristics, nutrient cycling, porosity of the soil, sediment quality and microbial diversity [20]. The biogenic structures and markings resulted due to bioturbatiory processes by crabs on the intertidal area control health of an ecosystem and form a major link in the food chain [9,18].

Seafood products are currently in high demand as they are considered healthy and nutritional [33]. Seafood is easily digestible because it has very little connective tissue. Crabs are a good resource of protein, carbohydrate, lipid and minerals [30]. Radhakrishnan [24] reported that eggs of marine crabs are an unexploited resource as they are a good source of protein, glycogen and fat. Crabs could be employed as a supplement of protein and mineral to balance human nutrition and to prevent nutritional deficiencies [11].

Rameshkumar et al [25] and Kohilam et al [13] reported that haemolymph of the crab, Charybdis lucifera and hermit crab, Clibanarius clibanarius as a source of biologically active products (antibacterial and antifungal) and are largely unexploited. Leffler [15] noted that crab waste is a source of chitin and chitosan, compounds that offer applications in medical sutures, seed coatings, dietary supplements and coagulants for waste treatment. Haragi et al [8] and Tharmine et al [35] reported that meat of all edible crab are rich in vitamins, stimulate brain cells and are good for colds, asthma, eosinophil, primary complex and wheezing. Morgan et al [16] documented that shore crabs can be used as sentinel species for monitoring pollutant effects in estuaries. Due to tendency of heavy metals to get accumulated in tissues of marine animals, crabs are also used for assessment of heavy metals [1,41].

Species diversity is a useful parameter for the comparison of communities under the influence of biotic disturbances or to know the state of succession and stability in the community. Species richness, or the number of species, is currently the most widely used diversity measure [18].

Coastal environment of Uran has been under considerable stress since the onset of Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT, an International Port), Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), LPG Distillation Plant, Grindwell Norton Ltd., Gas Turbine Power Station (GTPS), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) Gas Bottling Plant, DP World, Container Freight Stations (CFS), etc. These activities affect the ecology of brachyuran crabs from Uran coast, Navi Mumbai [22].

Although many studies have been undertaken to evaluate the species diversity of brachyuran crabs in India, no scientific studies have been carried out on the species composition of brachyuran crabs of Uran, Navi Mumbai; hence, the present study is undertaken. Objective of the study is to evaluate the impact of anthropogenic inputs on species composition of brachyuran crabs with respect to tidal and seasonal variability.


Study Area:

Geographically, Uran (Lat. 18[degrees]50'5" to 18[degrees]50'20" N and Long. 72[degrees]57'5" to 72[degrees]57'15" E) with the population of 23,254 is located along the eastern shore of Mumbai harbor opposite to Coloba. Uran is bounded by Mumbai harbor to the northwest, Thane creek to the north, Dharamtar creek and Karanja creek to the south, and the Arabian Sea to the west. Uran is included in the planned metropolis of Navi Mumbai and its port, the Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) (Fig. 1).

The coast of Uran is a tide-dominated and the tides are semidiuranal. The average tide amplitude is 2.28 m. The flood period lasts for about 6-7 h and the ebb period lasts for about 5 h. The average annual precipitation is about 3884 mm of which about 80% is received during July to September. The temperature range is 12-36[degrees]C, whereas the relative humidity remains between 61% and 86% and is highest in the month of August.

Sampling strategy:

The present study was carried out for a period of two years, i.e., from June 2013 to May 2015. Three study sites namely Sheva Creek, site I (Lat.18[degrees]50'20" N and Long. 72[degrees]57'5" E), Peerwadi coast, site II (Lat.18[degrees]50'10" N and Long. 72[degrees]57'1'' E) and Dharamtar Creek, site III (Lat.18[degrees]48'3'' N and Long. 72[degrees]58'31'' E) separated approximately by 10 km were selected along the coast.

The study sites were surveyed monthly during spring low tides and brachyuran crabs were collected by hand picking method from intertidal regions and shallow coastal waters. Burrowing crabs from intertidal region were collected by patience waiting for the crab to come out of the burrow, digging the burrows or by pouring dilute formalin inside the burrow. To avoid the limb-shedding, live crabs were narcotized first with menthol crystals and then preserved in 10% formalin neutralized with hexamine.

Identification of brachyuran crabs:

All collected crabs were photographed with Cannon EOS1100D digital camera and were identified up to species level using standard keys of Chhapgar [6,7], Jeyabaskaran and Wafar [10] ( and Marine Species Identification Portal website ( Scientific names and classification of brachyuran crabs was adopted from World Register of Marine Species (WRoMS) website (


Total 31 species of brachyuran crabs belonging to 20 genera and 11 families under the order Decapoda in the class Malacostraca were recorded from Uran coast (Table 1, Fig. 2, 3 and 4). In present study, brachyuran crabs belonging to family Grapsidae, Leucosiidae, Matutidae, Menippidae, Ocypodidae, Oziidae, Polybiidae, Porcellanidae, Portunidae, Sesarmidae and Xanthidae were recorded. Family Portunidae contribute 9 species while 5 species were belonging to families Grapsidae and Xanthidae. 2 species were belonging each to families Leucosiidae, Ocypodidae, Oziidae and Sesarmidae where as rest of the families including Matutidae, Menippidae, Polybiidae and Porcellanidae contributed only one species each (Table 2).

Sheva creek is characterized by extensive mud flats with sparse mangrove vegetation and less rocky stretches. Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNPT) and other port related establishments are located in the stretch of the creek. Gharapuri Island (Elephanta caves), a famous tourist spot is present on the north side of the creek. Intertidal region of Peerwadi coast has major portion of rocky substratum. Dharamtar creek is with rocky and coral substratum towards the Dronagiri Mountain whereas remaining part of the creek is dominated by the marshy areas and mud flats. Towards the Revas and Karanja side, the Dharamtar creek has mangrove associated habitats due to presence of dense and natural mangrove habitat.

Diverse species composition of brachyuran crabs reported from Uran coast is attributed to the availability of suitable substratum, appropriate habitat and sea grass beds [37]. Kumaralingam et al [14] reported that the substrates within a given habitat are the most important factor determining diversity of decapods crustaceans in marine habitats. Maximum species of brachyuran crabs was recorded from open mudflats of Sheva creek as compared to rocky stretches of the Peerwadi coast. This is correlated to habitat preference of brachyuran crabs to open mudflats and mangrove mudflats than the rocky substratum. Similar results were reported by Trivedi et al [36] in Gulf of Kutch, Gujarat, India where open mudflats provide unique kind of habitat to several species of brachyuran crabs. Results of the study are also in agreement with the work of Olawusi-Peters and Ajibare [18] from Ondo State, South West, Nigeria and Beleem et al (2014) from the Marine National Park, Gulf of Kachchh.

Low species diversity of brachyuran crabs recorded from rocky substratum of Peerwadi coast could be attributed to the abiotic factors like wave action, slope and salinity of water which cause direct effect on diversity and distribution of floral and faunal communities inhabiting rocky shore habitat. Similar results were reported by Szechy et al [34] from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil and Trivedi et al [36] in Gulf of Kutch, Gujarat, India.

Maximum species diversity of brachyuran crabs was recorded during pre-monsoon (February to May) and monsoon (June to September). This could be correlated to high abundance of phytoplankton and zooplankton which might support the early planktonic forms of the crab [5]. Of the 11 families recorded in the study, species dominance of family Portunidae (9 species) followed by families Grapsidae and Xanthidae (2 species) was noted. Similar results were reported by Pawar [22] from mangrove ecosystem of Uran, Sakthivel and Fernando [26] in Mudasal Odai and Nagapattinam coast of south east India, Varadharajan et al [38] from Puducherry coast, south east coast of India and Sruthi et al [31] in Kanyakumari area, south west coasts of India.

Information on species composition is the basis for understanding of processes affecting the equilibrium of communities or ecosystems. Monitoring marine biodiversity is of most importance to detect local extinctions or invading species [4]. Human impacts, nutrient enrichment, effluent disposal and changes in land use pattern threaten the crab populations and loss of biodiversity in recent years [27]. Industrial development, sand mining, charcoal, timber industries, urban growth pressure, pollution problem and mainly conversion of mangrove area into aquaculture ponds along the estuary are greatly reduced mangrove acreage cause depletion of biodiversity [32,8]. The natural population of crustaceans which support commercial fisheries is damaged in several ways by the activities of modern man [37].

The Sheva creek receives wastes and effluents from Asia's largest industrialized zone namely Thane Belapur industrialized area and Navi Mumbai Urban area [22]. Waste water from petrochemical complex and other industries are disposed into Dharamtar creek [23]. Peerwadi coast is in close proximity to human population and receives domestic waste and sewage from Nagaon, Kegaon and Uran. Wu and Zhang [40] reported that water quality determines the life of crab species. Maritime activities of Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNP) affect the coastal ecosystem of Uran due to anthropogenic threat; still Uran coast harbours varied species diversity of brachyuran crabs.

Since no earlier reports are available on species diversity of brachyuran crabs from Uran coast, data presented here can be taken as a baseline data in knowing the status of brachyuran crabs and effect of industrial development on it and for a better management of brachyuran crabs.


In the present study, the results showed that the Uran coast harbors a diverse group of brachyuran crabs. Crab species belonging to family Portunidae were dominant followed by families Grapsidae and Xanthidae aver all the families recorded in the study. The study also reveals that brachyuran crabs in close proximity to human populations consist of fewer species whereas the community at a site distant from human development shows more diverse assemblage of species. The variation in abundance of species could result from anthropogenic activities of Jawaharlal Nehru Port (JNP). Activities like overharvesting, habitat loss, disposal of sewage, wastes and effluents will affect the coastal plant ecosystem as they serve as home, nursery, feeding and breeding grounds for many crustaceans. Present information on species diversity of brachyuran crabs would be helpful as a baseline data for further monitoring of anthropogenic inputs on crabs from Uran coast.


Financial support provided by University Grants Commission, New Delhi [File No: 42-546/2013 (SR) dated 22nd Mar 2013] is gratefully acknowledged. The author is thankful to The Principal, Veer Wajekar Arts, Science and Commerce College Mahalan Vibhag, Phunde (Uran), Navi Mumbai 400 702 for providing necessary facilities for the present study. Special thanks to Dr. Rahul B. Patil for providing healthy cooperation during field visits for photography of the study sites and brachyuran crabs. Thanks are due to Mr. Sanket S. Shirgaonkar, who worked as a Project Fellow for the present study. Thanks to Dr. Atul G. Babar for the help rendered during preparation of location map of study area.


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Table 1: Species of brachyuran crabs recorded from Uran, Navi Mumbai.

Order                Family

Class- Malacostraca
Decapoda             Grapsidae
Decapoda             Grapsidae
Decapoda             Grapsidae
Decapoda             Grapsidae
Decapoda             Grapsidae
Decapoda             Leucosiidae
Decapoda             Leucosiidae
Decapoda             Matutidae
Decapoda             Menippidae
Decapoda             Ocypodidae
Decapoda             Ocypodidae
Decapoda             Oziidae
Decapoda             Oziidae
Decapoda             Polybiidae
Decapoda             Porcellanidae
Decapoda             Portunidae
Decapoda             Portunidae
Decapoda             Portunidae
Decapoda             Portunidae
Decapoda             Portunidae
Decapoda             Portunidae
Decapoda             Portunidae
Decapoda             Portunidae
Decapoda             Portunidae
Decapoda             Sesarmidae
Decapoda             Sesarmidae
Decapoda             Xanthidae
Decapoda             Xanthidae
Decapoda             Xanthidae
Decapoda             Xanthidae
Decapoda             Xanthidae

Order                Scientific Name

Class- Malacostraca
Decapoda             Goniopsis cruentata (Latreille, 1803)
Decapoda             Grapsus albolineatus (Lamarck, 1818)
Decapoda             Metopograpsus frontalis (Miers, 1880)
Decapoda             Metopograpsus messor (Forskal, 1775)
Decapoda             Metopograpsus oceanicus (Hombron & Jacquinot, 1846)
Decapoda             Persephona mediterranea (Herbst, 1794)
Decapoda             Tokoyo eburnea (Alcock, 1896)
Decapoda             Matuta lunaris (Forskal, 1775)
Decapoda             Myomenippe hardwickii (Gray, 1831)
Decapoda             Uca annulipes (H. Milne Edwards, 1837)
Decapoda             Uca (Tubuca) dussumieri (H. Milne Edwards, 1852)
Decapoda             Epixanthus frontalis (H. Milne Edwards, 1834)
Decapoda             Ozius rugulosus (Stimpson, 1858)
Decapoda             Liocarcinus pusillus (Leach, 1815)
Decapoda             Petrolisthes galathinus (Bosc, 1802)
Decapoda             Charybdis acuta (A. Milne-Edwards, 1869)
Decapoda             Charybdis feriatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Decapoda             Charybdisjaponica (A. Milne-Edwards, 1861)
Decapoda             Charybdis lucifera (Fabricius, 1798)
Decapoda             Charybdis orientalis (Dana, 1852)
Decapoda             Charybdis truncata (Fabricius, 1798)
Decapoda             Portunus pelagicus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Decapoda             Portunus sanguinolentus (Herbst, 1783)
Decapoda             Scylla serrata (Forskal, 1775)
Decapoda             Aratus pisonii (H. Milne Edwards, 1837)
Decapoda             Metasesarma obesum (Dana, 1851)
Decapoda             Leptodius exaratus (H. Milne Edwards, 1834)
Decapoda             Leptodius sanguineus (H. Milne Edwards, 1834)
Decapoda             Paractaea monody (Guinot, 1969)
Decapoda             Xantho incisus (H. Milne Edwards, 1834)
Decapoda             Xantho poressa (Olivi, 1792)

Table 2: Genera and family wise species and percentage distribution of
brachyuran crabs from Uran

Sr. No.  Family          Number of  Number of species

 1       Grapsidae       3           5
 2       Leucosiidae     2           2
 3       Matutidae       1           1
 4       Menippidae      1           1
 5       Ocypodidae      1           2
 6       Oziidae         2           2
 7       Polybiidae      1           1
 8       Porcellanidae   1           1
 9       Portunidae      3           9
10       Sesarmidae      2           2
11       Xanthidae       3           5
                        20          31

Sr. No.  % distribution of species

 1                    16.13%
 2                     6.45%
 3                     3.23%
 4                     3.23%
 5                     6.45%
 6                     6.45%
 7                     3.23%
 8                     3.23%
 9                    29.03%
10                     6.45%
11                    16.13%
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Author:Pawar, Prabhakar R.
Publication:Advances in Environmental Biology
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Feb 1, 2017
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