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Ultimate Guide to Crustaceans of North Sulawesi – Part 1

Welcome to Part I of our “ Ultimate Guide to Crustaceans of North Sulawesi ”. At Murex Dive Resorts we are lucky enough to have so many different and beautiful species of crustaceans (lobsters, crabs and shrimps) that we simply can’t fit all of the best ones in to one Blog! Many of these species you may recognise already but hopefully we will also be able to show you some new species to wet your appetite for your next stay with us…

Crustaceans of North Sulawesi

Hairy Squat Lobster (Lauriea siagiani)

These highly photogenic squat lobsters range in color from vibrant purples to hot pinks and are one of the more popular Crustaceans of North Sulawesi. They live in giant barrel sponges in between the vertical ridges that run down the outside of the sponge. They are a shy species and will back away from cameras so having adequate light to get a good shot can be tricky. Their entire bodies are covered in long white bristles and their eyes are bright red. This is a small species with the carapace growing up to only 1.5cm. If you find one on a barrel sponge, look for more as they are often in small groups.

Hairy Squad lobster is a Crustaceans of North Sulawesi

Hairy Squat Lobster (Lauriea siagiani) found around Murex Manado

Dive Sites: Hairy squat lobsters can be found at many of our dive sites in Manado, Bunaken, Bangka and Lembeh including all three House Reefs.

Harlequin Shrimp (Hymenocera elegans)

Harlequin shrimp are a highly sought after species by underwater photographers due to their exquisite colors and markings, one of the most beautiful Crustaceans of North Sulawesi. Their bodies are white with bold brown to purple circular markings which are outlined in blue. Their slender legs are banded in blue and white and they are usually found in pairs living underneath rocks and in shallow holes in the sea floor. They feed on blue sea stars which they are experts in hunting. They start by turning the sea star over to immobilize it and then sever an arm which they carry back to their lair to consume over a period of time. Harlequin shrimp do not tend to move around and will stay under the same rock for as long as there are unsuspecting sea stars in the area!

Harlequin Shrimp as one of the Crustaceans of North Sulawesi

Harlequin Shrimp (Hymenocera elegans) found at Murex Bangka

Dive sites: The best sites for Harlequin Shrimp are Tanjung Bulo in Manado, Tiga Batu in Bangka and Aw Shucks in Lembeh.

Candy Crab (Hoplophrys oatesii)

Candy crabs, also known as soft coral crabs, are a species of imitator crab that live in symbiosis with Dendronephthya soft corals. Their bodies, which grow to just 1.5cm, are covered in sharp spike-like tubercles which gives them near perfect camouflage – these tubercles are actually polyps taken from the host coral which they attach to their carapace. Their body color ranges from white, pink, yellow to red depending on the colour of its host.

Crustaceans of North Sulawesi with the Soft Coral Candy Crab

Soft Coral Candy Crab (Hoplophrys oatesii) found at Bunaken Island

Dive sites: These tiny critters are found at dive sites with good soft coral coverage such as Tanjung Kelapa and the Manado House Reef, Sahaung in Bangka and Nudi Falls in Lembeh.

Crinoid Squat Lobster (Allogalathea elegans)

Crinoid squat lobsters (as their name suggests) exclusively inhabit crinoid feather stars for protection. They are perfectly colored to match their host and have black (or dark brown) and white stripes running down their carapaces and arms – the stripes are often highlighted with yellow or red. The carapace grows up to just 2cm, with females being generally larger than males. This clever squat lobster is not only protected by the crinoid – it also feeds on the plankton that is collected on the crinoids arms.

Crinoid Squat Lobster is one of Crustaceans of North Sulawesi

Crinoid Squat Lobster (Allogalathea elegans) as found in Manado Bay

Dive sites: North Sulawesi sites attract a healthy population of crinoids with the best dive sites being Manado House Reef, Fukui in Bunaken, Batu Tiga in Bangka and Lembeh Resort House Reef.

Emperor Shrimp (Periclimene imperator)

This is another small species of shrimp which grows up to 2cm. It typically has a red coloration with distinct white or white spotted patterns on its head, back and tail. It has orange claw arms and purple claws and joints. The female is generally bigger and more robust looking than its male counterpart. This is an easy type of shrimp to find here in North Sulawesi as it lives in symbiosis with sea cucumbers on which it lives on the underside – don’t be surprised though if you see one “riding” on the back of a large species of nudibranch – they are known to do this too!

Emperor Shrimp belongs to the Crustaceans of North Sulawesi

Emperor Shrimp (Periclimene imperator) found on many dives sites around Manado and Bangka

Dive sites: If you are looking to see emperor shrimps we recommend Bethlehem in Manado, Sampiri in Bangka and Air Prang in Lembeh.

Orangutan Crab (Oncinopus sp 1.)

The orangutan crab is a type of decorator crab which is covered in fine red to red-brown or orange hairs (giving it the “orangutan” name). The carapace grows up to 2cm but the legs are much longer giving it a spider like appearance. Its eyes are red and protrude out from the head. The orangutan crab is most often spotted on bubble corals in which it can retreat (between the bubbles) for protection. If you do find one, keep looking as they are quite often found in pairs.

Orangutan Crab is the most common of the Crustaceans of North Sulawesi

Orangutan Crab (Oncinopus sp 1.) is the most common one of the Crusteceans of North Sulawesi

Dive sites: Orangutan crabs are possible to see at almost all of our dive sites in North Sulawesi and one of the most common Crustaceans of North Sulawesi so if you are hoping to see one (or more) just let your Dive Guide know!

We will be following this Blog up with more Crustaceans of North Sulawesi later so stay tuned and let us know in the comments section below if there is any particular species that you would like us to include. With such healthy reefs and some of Indonesia’s best dive sites crustaceans (and all marine species) thrive here in North Sulawesi.

Join our Passport to Paradise program to experience diving in all three of distinct dive destinations. No long transfer times as you simply hop on the boat and make your daily dives along the way to the next resort. You’ll explore some of North Sulawesi’s lesser known dive sites and enjoy a huge variety of marine life along the way including many of these Crustaceans of North Sulawesi.

For more information or to book your place: [email protected]


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Murex Dive Resorts, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
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