[Ocean Oasis Field Guide] Satellite image of the Baja California peninsula and Gulf of California See Spanish version

Manucomplanus varians
(formerly Pylopagurus varians)
Staghorn hermit crab
Cangrejo ermitaño

Phylum Arthropoda
Subphylum Crustacea
Order Decapoda
Infraorder Anomura
Superfamily Paguroidea


This is a unique hermit crab that makes a house out of the staghorned hydrocoral (Janaria mirabilis). The hydrocoral has chemically eroded away the original gastropod shell. The hermit crab uses its chela, or claw, to seal the entrance of this "shell." The large crown-like branches of the staghorn coral Janaria grow in such a way that if the hermit crab is turned upside down, it may not be able to turn right side up again

Size: Carapace length 6 mm (1/4 inch)

Range and Habitat

The staghorn hermit crab is found on a mixed sand and rock habitat, at depths of 6 to 183 m (20-600 ft.), from the central Gulf of California to Panama.

Natural History

The hermit crab trims the entrance to fit its size requirements as the hydrocoral continually grows. This hermit crab is greatly appreciated by collectors and commonly appears in trawl nets.

hermit crab (Manucomplanus varians) in its home of staghorn hydrocoral (Hippoporidra sp.), from Ocean Oasis

A hermit crab (Manucomplanus varians) in its home of staghorn hydrocoral ( Janaria mirabilis), from Ocean Oasis. The hydrocoral is about 1-2 inches long.

Text by Patricia Beller
Photograph from Ocean Oasis

Field Guide | Site Index | Ocean Oasis Introduction

Quail Logo © 2000 San Diego Natural History Museum