Slightly larger than a fingernail and with hooked legs for mating, meet Hong Kong’s first native tree-climbing crab
Slightly larger than a fingernail and with hooked legs for mating, meet Hong Kong’s first native tree-climbing crab.
Marine ecologists have discovered the first tree-climbing crab native to Hong Kong.
The Haberma tingkok, slightly larger than a fingernail, was spotted last summer crawling along the branches of mangroves in Ting Kok – a coastal area facing Tolo Harbour in the New Territories.
While there are 15 to 20 other species of crabs worldwide that can climb trees, the Haberma tingkok is more closely related to two other species, sharing the unusual characteristic of hooked legs in the male – used to grasp females while mating.
The only other two known species can be found in the mangroves of Singapore and Indonesia and are not known to climb trees, preferring to live in mud.
The last discovery of an endemic mangrove crab species was in 1975.
Cannicci called the discovery “an evolutionary milestone”.
Because animals in mangroves are evolving from a marine to a terrestrial system, where crabs pretend and move like insects and do strange things, ” Cannicci said.
Altogether, the team has spotted around 20 of its kind in Ting Kok, where its name comes from.
Ting Kok, the third largest mangrove area in Hong Kong, is home to a rich diversity of organisms ranging from horseshoe crabs to sand snails, but does not have statutory protection.