Phyllolithodes papillosus Brandt, 1849

Common name(s): Heart crab, heart lithodid, papillid crab, flat spined triangle crab, spiny-leg lithode crab

Synonyms: Phyllolithodes bicornis, Petaloceras bellianus
Phylum Arthropoda
 Subphylum Crustacea
  Class Malacostraca
    Subclass Eumalacostraca
     Superorder Eucarida
      Order Decapoda
        Suborder Pleocyemata
        Infraorder Anomura
         Family Lithodidae
Phyllolithodes papillosus subtidal from Sares Head.  About 5 cm carapace width.
(Photo by: Dave Cowles, July 2000)
Description:  This lithodid crab has a triangular, lumpy carapace with an inverted U-shaped depression in the middle of the dorsal side, deeper on the two lateral ends of the depression, and a few long spines along the lateral margins.  The rostrum is divided into two blunt lobes (photo).  The legs are covered with thick, blunt spines.  Carapace width up to 10 cm.  Usually grayish or brown.  Juveniles may be white with purple or orange markings.

How to Distinguish from Similar Species: Rhinolithodes wosnessenskii also has a triangular carapace with a depression in the middle but the legs are covered with setae and sharp spines, its rostrum is not divided into two blunt lobes, and the carapace has no tubercles on the dorsal surface but has sharp spines along the margin.

Geographical Range: Dutch Harbor, Alaska to San Miguel Island, California

Depth Range: Subtidal to 183 m

Habitat: Around rocks in deep water, especially with currents.

Biology/Natural History: This species is not frequently encountered.  Captive individuals readily eat urchins.  May also eat sponges.  This species often shelters under the anemone Cribrinopsis fernaldi, especially after molting (photo) (photo).  Juveniles can (rarely) be found under intertidal rocks.

Genus Phyllolithodes is characterized by large abdominal plates with softer centers (photo)

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Dichotomous Keys:
  Carlton, 2007
  Coffin, 1952
  Flora and Fairbanks, 1966
  Hart, 1982
  Kozloff 1987, 1996
  Wicksten, 2009

General References:
  Harbo, 1999
  Jensen, 1995
  Johnson and Snook, 1955
  Lamb and Hanby, 2005

Scientific Articles:

General Notes and Observations:  Locations, abundances, unusual behaviors:

Several more views of the species.  Photo by Dave Cowles, July 2000.  Captured subtidally at Sares Head.

Under Cribrinopsis

Phyllolithodea papillosus often takes refuge under the crimson anemone Cribrinopsis fernaldi.
Photo by Dave Cowles, July 2008

This view of the face shows the red eyes, the flattened scales, and the blunt dorsal and ventral lobes on the rostrum.

As in many Lithodid crabs, the abdomen is broad and sculptured.  The abdominal plates are softer in the middle.  Note also the long bristly setae on the chelae.

This female was carrying eggs. Photo by Dave Cowles, July 2018
Several views of an individual captured at 12 m depth on Sares Head, June 2020. Carapace width 7 cm, carapace length 6.5 cm including rostrum. Photos by Dave Cowles
Dorsal view
Above: Dorsal view. Below: Ventral view
Ventral view
Ventral view with claws
Above: Ventral view with chelae. Below: Lateral view
Lateral view
Lateral view of head and rostrum
Lateral view of head and rostrum.

Authors and Editors of Page:
Dave Cowles (2005):  Created original page