Wed, Oct 10, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Two new tree crab species discovered

PAYING TRIBUTE:One of the crabs was named after a researcher who drowned in waters off Orchid Island during the writing of a research paper published in ‘Zootaxa’

By Chen Yan-ting and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

A Parasesarma macaco is pictured in an undated photograph.

Photo: Chen Yen-ting, Taipei Times

Researcher Li Jheng-jhang (李政璋) has discovered two tree-dwelling crab species in the Hengchun Peninsula (恆春半島) and named them after two of his friends, the Kenting National Park said on Monday.

Li, a doctoral candidate at National Sun Yat-sen University, discovered the Parasesarma kui near Gangkou Creek (港口溪) and the Parasesarma macaco near Baoli Creek (保力溪), the park said, adding that Li’s initial findings were last month published in a co-authored paper in Zootaxa.

The Parasesarma genus of land crabs, which Li and his co-authors have given the common name “tree-spider crabs,” are distinguished by hook-like legs with short digits and small, flat bodies, which facilitate tree climbing, the paper said.

Li and two other taxonomists from the National University of Singapore and the Indonesian Academy of Sciences over the past three years surveyed Southeast Asia and the coast of East Africa for similar crabs, documenting multiple live specimens, it said.

The study identified seven previously unknown species of tree-spider crabs in the Indo-West Pacific, including the two in Hengchun, doubling Taiwan’s number of indigenous tree-dwelling crab species, the park said.

The Parasesarma kui was named after Ku Ching-fang (古清芳) of Gangkou Village, a long-time park volunteer who has taken part in numerous land crab conservation and research projects, the park said.

The Parasesarma macaco’s name refers to its agile, monkey-like gait and is a tribute to Li’s late friend nicknamed Lin Laohou (“Lin the Old Monkey,” 林老猴), a fellow researcher who drowned at sea near Orchid Island (Lanyu, 蘭嶼) during the writing of the paper, it said.

The two crabs are highly dependent on riverside brushes for habitat, part of which near the Baoli Creek was cut down to build a concrete revetment shortly after the crabs’ discovery, with only a small area north of the creek’s mouth remaining untouched, the park said.

Despite the partial loss of habitat, there are still large numbers of both crab species living by the mouths of the creeks, who venture into the waters during high tide to feed and spawn, the park added.

Kenting is the sole habitat for many rare species and a mecca for biologists around the world, it said, adding that any diminution of biodiversity in the area would be a loss to Taiwan and the world.

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