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Boletín Científico. Centro de Museos. Museo de Historia Natural

Print version ISSN 0123-3068

Bol. Cient. Mus. Hist. Nat. Univ. Caldas vol.20 no.2 Manizales July/Dec. 2016 

DOI: 10.17151/bccm.2016.20.2.13



Fabiola Ospina-B.1,2, Emilio Realpe1 and J.Y. Arias-Pineda1


* FR: 10-IV-16. 28-X-2016.
1 Laboratorio de Zoología y Ecología Acuática-LAZOEA, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá D.C., Colombia. E-mail:
2 Grupo de investigaciones en ecosistemas tropicales, Universidad de Caldas, Manizales, Caldas, Colombia.



Several Sesarmidae species live in phytotelmata as a strategy to avoid predation, find nutrients, and protect the juvenile. This study reports the occurrence of A. angustum to be associated with Guzmania sp. (Bromeliaceae) in rainforests of Colombia. A. angustum has morphological adaptations for climbing that allow access to bromeliads and other phytotelmata as other crab species reported in bromeliads and tree holes. Future research would be directed toward explaining the presence of A. angustum on bromeliads.

Key words: Armases angustum, Bromelaceae, rainforest.


Varias especies Sesarmidae viven en fitotelmata como una estrategia para evitar la depredación, hallar nutrientes, y proteger a los juveniles. El estudio muestra la presencia de A. angustum asociados con Guzmania sp. (Bromeliaceae) en las selvas de Colombia. A. angustum tiene adaptaciones morfológicas para la escalar que permiten el acceso a las bromelias y otras fitotelmata como otras especies de cangrejos reportados en bromelias y huecos de los árboles. Futuras investigaciones futura podría ser dirigida hacia la explicación de la presencia de A. angustum.

Palabras clave: Armases angustum, Bromeliaceae, bosque húmedo tropical.



Sesarmidae is a crab family inhabiting temperate and tropical regions. Sesarmid crabs are found in marine, freshwater, mangrove, and brackish habitats (ABELE, 1992; HARTNOLL, 1975; JONES, 1984; SCHUBART et al., 2002), where they eat litter or detritus and tadpole (FRATINI et al., 2005, GRAY & CHRISTY, 2000). In addition, several species of Sesarmidae live in phytotelmata; for example, Labuanium rotundatum (Hess, 1865) is associated with treeholes (NG & LIU, 2003), Metopaulias depressus, Rathbun, 1896 and Armases angustipes, Dana, 1852 live in bromeliads (DIESEL, 1989, 1992, 1997), and Scandarma lintou, Schubart et al., 2003, Labuanium scandens Ng & Liu, 2003, Labuanium gracilipes H. Milne Edwards, 1853, and Aratus pisonii H. Milne Edwards, 1837 are associated to Pandanaceae (CUMBERLIDGE et al., 2005; NG & LIU, 2003; SCHUBART et al., 2003; THIERCELIN & SCHUBART, 2014). The family Sesarmidae includes around 31 genera, some of which are widely distributed in the Indo-Pacific region. In America, the family is represented by approximately 33 species, into in four genera, Aratus with 2 species, Armases with 13 species, Metopaulias with 1 species and Sesarma with 18 species (ABELE, 1992; NG et al., 2008; DE GRAVE et al., 2009; SCHUBART & SANTL, 2014; THIERCELIN & SCHUBART, 2014). The genus Armases contains two species that have been reported along the Pacific coastline of Colombia: A. occidentale (Smith, 1870) and A. angustum (Smith, 1870) (ABELE, 1992; LEMAITRE & ALVAREZ, 1992). The species A. angustum has been found in the Pacific coast region of Colombia (e.g., on Gorgona Island, Bahia Malaga) to be associated with mangrove trunks and plant detritus (LAZARUS & CANTERA, 2007; LEMAITRE & ALVAREZ, 1992). This study reports, for the first time, the occurrence of A. angustum to be associated with Guzmania sp. (Bromeliaceae) in rainforests of Colombia.


The study was conducted in a tropical rainforest located around El Amargal Biological station (5°41'29.44" N 77°16'18.36" W) on the Pacific coast of the department of Chocó in Colombia. The area is characterized by a mature forest with a canopy height of 35-45 m.; Brosimum utile (Moraceae), Wettinia quinaria (Arecaceae), Otoba novogranatensis (Myristicaceae), Cecropia hispidissima (Cecropiaceae) are the more abundant plant species. The annual average temperature is 26.3°C and the average annual precipitation is 7245 mm. The precipitation regime is unimodal with a rainy season between April and November, and a humidity of 85% (VALLEJO et al., 2005). Eleven plants of Guzmania sp. (Bromeliaceae) Ruiz & Pavón, 1802, were collected in April of 2012 to survey the fauna inhabiting them. The bromeliads were located at heights between 1 and 3 m above the ground level. They had an average height of 0.83 m, an average of 0.118 m2 of coverage, an average leaf number of 27.6, and an average of 8.78 g of litter.


Armases angustum (Smith, 1870) (Fig. 1)

Material examined. – Eight adult ♂♂ (cw 1.2 cm, cl 1.3 cm) and 3 adult ♀♀ (cw 1.0 cm, cl 1.1 cm). Colombia, Department of Chocó, Municipality of Nuquí, district of Arusí, El Amargal Biological station. 5°41'29 44"N 77°16'18.36"W. April 2012. Coll. Fabiola Ospina-Bautista, Emilio Realpe. All material was deposited in the Museo de Historia Natural, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, under accession no. ANDES-IN 2793.

Habitat. – These were collected from Guzmania sp. of the Pacific coast of Colombia.

General morphological characters – Carapace whit dorsal surface of carapace covered with granules (fig. 2A). Sexually dimorphic chelipeds; generally more robust in males than in females. In both sexes, medial posterior and lateral inferior sides has serrated edges. The anterior medial edge is armed with teeth and expanded distally, especially in males. Carpus covered with sharp granules. Chelae of both sexes covered with granules; dorsal surface of palm with a poorly row of sharp tubercles (fig. 2B). First male gonopod an amber color, consisting of two unequal lobes laterally compressed with a medial groove; the shaft portions are membranous or weakly calcified (fig. 2 E-F) Remarks. – The three females of A. angustum collected were found in 3 bromeliads Guzmania sp. and the eight males were found around bromeliads. The bromeliad community was dominated by immature Coleoptera and Diptera, Scirtes sp. (Helodidae), Limonia sp. (Tipulidae), and Wyeomyia sp. (Culicidae).


There have not been reports for Colombia of crabs inhabiting bromeliads, despite the high diversity of decapods in Colombia (CAMPOS, 2005; CAMPOS et al., 2005; LAMAITRE & ALVAREZ, 1992; VALENCIA & CAMPOS, 2007). Moreover, this is the first record of A. angustum living in Bromeliaceae. Like other species reported in bromeliads and treeholes, A. angustum has morphological adaptations for climbing that can allow access to the hearts of bromeliads and other phytotelmata. Armases species have a flattened and slightly broader than long carapace, long propodi, and short dactyli in the legs for climbing the tree stem (VANNINI et al., 1997), mobile fingers often extended into the base with granules scattered on the dorsal surface, a second pair of pereiopods without pubescence on the dorsal surface of the propodus (ABELE, 1992). This strategy is relevant for avoiding predation, finding nutrients, protecting the juveniles, and colonizing new habitats such as the surface of the tree bark, bromeliads, and tree holes (CANNICCI et al., 1999; ERICKSON et al., 2003; HARTNOLL, 1988; VANNINI et al., 1997; SIVASOTHI, 2000).

Future research would be directed toward explaining the presence of A. angustum on bromeliads. A. angustum has been reported to prey on Dendrobates auratus tadpoles in ephemeral pools of Panama (GRAY & CHRISTY, 2000). Thus, it is possible that the same behavior occurs with the individuals of A. angustum in the Pacific coast of Colombia, where the species Dendrobates histrionicus has been reported to occur (MÉNDEZ & AMÉZQUITA, 2014). Moreover, some species of Sesarmidae in Jamaica, such as Metapaulius depressus, use the phytotelm system to protect their offspring against predators (DIESEL, 1989, 1992). Therefore, in a similar fashion A. angustum may be using Guzmania sp. as a breeding habitat.


The authors are very grateful to Célio Magalhães for revising the manuscript. We would like to thank the reviewers for their comments on the manuscript.



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