The Western Ghats of India are a true explorer’s haven because of the diversity of life forms that exist here. This has been proven yet again with the discovery of 5 new species of brightly coloured freshwater crabs from this biodiversity hotspot. These crabs prefer to live on land and need freshwater pools for breeding.

The discovery of the crabs was done by undergraduate student and researchers from the Zoological Survey of India and the Indian Herpetological Society.

The five crabs are,

Ghatiana splendida

Ghatiana splendida. Credit: Arjun Kamdar

Image by Arjun Kamdar

  • Named for its splendid colours the crab has pink shell and pincers, and orange legs.
  • Found hiding in cracks of rocks in a plateau in Amboli district of Maharashtra.
  • Claw bearing pincers are unequal in size with left larger than the right one.
  • Known locally as the pink forest crab before scientific discovery.

Ghatiana atropurpurea

Image by Arjun Kamdar

  • Known locally as the purple tree crab, before scientific discovery.
  • The tree-living crab prefers to live on jamun trees, and resembles the color of the fruits.
  • Discovered in a tree hole in Amboli district of Maharshtra.
  • One claw bearing pincer is larger than the other
  • Locals have observed it scavenging on millipedes or snakes killed due to road accidents.

“The locals knew about the two Ghatianas and photographers had clicked them, too, but no one really thought what genus or species they were,” says Tejas Thackeray, who discovered the two species, along with Gubernatoriana thackerayi, when he was on a project photographing the endemic reptiles and amphibians of Kokan, Maharashtra, in 2015. “They would just call them the purple tree crab or the pink forest crab,” adds Thackeray, who is a 19-year old BA student at Jai Hind College in Mumbai and a wildlife photography enthusiast.

He also told The Wire,

“On the third day of the trip we decided to go on a plateau nearby looking for the rare olive forest snake. After hours of searching and no signs of the snake, we decided to climb down the slope and explore the area. It was raining heavily and the area was full of leeches and suddenly I see this absolutely stunning, brilliant pink crab getting out of a hole and I couldn’t believe it; I had never seen a crab this beautiful. Hence, we decided to name it Ghatiana splendida,”

Gubernatoriana thackerayi

Image by Shailesh Bhosale

  • Named after its discoverer Tejas Thackrey.
  • Discovered during monsoons in horizontal rock cracks in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra.
  • Striking red in colour with orange-red pincers.
  • Active during the day and feeds on worms.
  • Females have equal sized pincers while males have unequal size.
  • Walking legs have fine brown bristles.

Gubernatoriana waghi

Gubernatoriana waghi. Credit: Rachit Shah

Image by Rachit Shah

  • Named after its discoverer Prashant Wagh.
  • Discovered under small rocks on the edge of a cliff in Harishchandragad, Ahmednagar disctrict of Maharshtra.
  • Orange crab with beautiful ivory coloured legs.
  • Unequal pincers with right one larger than the left one.

Gubernatoriana alcocki

Gubernatoriana alcocki. Credit: B.V. Jadhav

Image by B.V.Jadhav

  • Named after Indian-born British naturalist Alfred William Alcock, for his work on crustaceans.
  • Seen under rocks in short living streams, in Satara, Maharashtra.
  • Crab is olive brown in colour, with orange-brown pincers.
  • Has an unusual predator-prey relationship with Bombay swamp eels. Adult eels feed on the crab whereas the crab feeds on juvenile eels.


The researchers believe that the 5 discoveries are merely a small percent of the variety of freshwater crabs that might be living in the Western Ghats. Because of the crabs’ very specific habitat requirements, they are also equally under threat from human led developments that can easily destroy the small habitat needed by each of the species. Deforestation, water pollution and habitat destruction are all a challenge says Sameer Pati who was instrumental in the discovery of the genus Ghatiana in 2014.

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About Atula Gupta

Atula Gupta is the Founder and Editor of Her work has appeared in a number of international websites, dailies and magazines including The Wire, Deccan Herald, New Indian Express, Down to Earth and Heritage India on issues related to environment and its conservation. She is also the author of Environment Science Essentials, a set of books for school children. She hopes this website provides a platform for people to be aware about species in the verge of extinction and heighten their conservation efforts.

8 thoughts on “5 Spectacular Crabs Discovered In Western Ghats

  1. I was one of the photographers Atula and I remember that no information was available about these crabs when i blogged about it 🙂
    link to my blog images -

  2. Are you sure they are real crabs? The red and orange Gubernatoriana thackerayi looks more like a vegetable sculpture carved out of red and yellow capsicum. A couple others look like that too. Only the last one looks a little scary and run-away-from worthy 🙂 The pincers look totally menacing though.

    1. Vegetable sculptures! So true! But the crabs won’t be too delighted to hear that..they’ll say – “Does my pincer look vegetable to you? I can carve some sculptures out of it!” 😀

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