The colorful crabs that look like toys have been around in the Oriental and European pet trade for a decade, but no one knew exactly where these crabs came from. These crabs with vibrant hues were being collected even before they were given names.
The two new species of “vampire crabs” – so called because of their intense yellow eyes – grow to be about an inch long. A team of researchers led by Christian Lukhaup, a German carcinologist (crab expert) traced the origin of the crustaceans to the river valleys on the Indonesian island Java.
One of the crabs has purple claws while the other one has fiery orange nippers. The team called the purple one Geosesarma dennerle, named after the German company Dennerle which supported the research of these crabs. The orange one was christened Geosesarma hagen, named after the Rolf C. Hagen Group of Companies, which is a major pet supplies company in Germany that also supported the research.
Lukhaup said other scientists have identified other species of vampire crabs, but the recently discovered species are the most common pets because of their diminutive size.
They are easy to care for and are quite sociable, getting along well with one another and seldom fight. The cute crabs live up to three years. They sell for $25 each.
Singaporean Peter Ng, a member of the research team, fears that the vampire crabs may already be under threat from over-collecting due to their popularity to aquarium pet lovers.
“Any species that is over-exploited — be it for food, or as a pet — stands threatened. More so for a small freshwater crab like this, which has a relatively restricted range,” Ng said.
Lukhaup hopes that private commercial breeding will help prevent the decimation of the crabs’ population due to the vampire crab craze.