What’s there not to like about cute and feisty Hotlips Spider Crabs? Not one of them ever looks the same – they cover themselves with sponge, shells, hydroids and other marine life that they prune from the reef and hang about watching the world go by as they wait for a tasty morsel to come their way.
We’ve been seeing a lot of them at Noble Reef recently, perched on the many sinuous sea fans. As you approach them, they lift up their front pincers which they gnash at you as a warning not to come any closer.
They look scary for all of two milliseconds, by which time you realise they aren’t going to inflict any life-threatening injury and that it is all just for show. Some will stand their ground, twitching their mandibles and waving their their pincers at you, whilst those less feisty will scuttle away and hide somewhere safe. And they can actually move pretty fast (usually when you’re trying to photograph them as they do not like bright lights!).
Scientific name: Achaeopsis spinulosa
Common name: Hotlips Spider Crab (bceause of the vivid red markings around its mouth)
It is a relatively small crab which can grow up to 70mm across. It has quite long, sturdy legs and a rounded carapace which tapers to a blunt tip. Its pincers are often raggedly striped in red and white.
This crab decorates its body with sponges, hydroids, algae and bits of shell for camouflage and they are not often seen without decoration.
Hotlips spider crabs can be found from False Bay to Durban, down to depths of approximately 40m. They are endemic to this region
Where to look for them:
Amongst striped anemones and on sea fans (primarily sinouos sea fans) at Gordon’s Bay dive sites such as Noble Reef and Blousteen, although they can be found on the many sea fans at Pinnacle and Cow and Calf. Location can vary seasonally.
Join us on our dives in Gordon’s Bay and come and search for them with us!