Species - Eriocheir sinensis

  • Eriocheir sinensis (H. Milne-Edwards, 1853)
  • Chinese mitten crab
  • While Australia has not yet seen the introduction of Chinese mitten crabs, its environment is suitable for settlement and spread through coastal river systems in the southeast (S Qld to central SA) and southwest (Esperance to Shark Bay) according to modelling carried out by Zhang et al. (2019).

    The Chinese mitten crab has been established in Europe since the beginning of the 20th century and has spread there and elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere since then (Panning, 1939; Bentley, 2011). It has been the subject of considerable research both in its native range where its gonads are considered a delicacy and elsewhere as an invasive species. Hundreds of research papers have summarised the biology and invasive history of this species. In China, research continues on improving methods for cultivation (e.g., Wang et al., 2018; Wu et al., 2020). Selective breeding programs (mainly for improved growth rate) have developed at least 5 certified varieties of mitten crab in China (Liu et al., 2018). In Europe, the damage done by Chinese mitten crabs remains of considerable concern (e.g., Schoelynck et al., 2020).


  • The Chinese mitten crab reaches a larger size than typical shore crabs in Australia, with a squarish carapace up to 100 mm wide. The carapace (shell) is brownish-orange-green with four conspicuous sharp teeth along each side. The Chinese mitten crab is instantly recognisable by the furry claws than inspire its common name (Naser et al., 2012).

    Adult crabs inhabit rivers, lakes, estuaries and marine bays, favouring compacted clay-silt banks with some vegetative cover.

    The species is “one of the World’s most notorious aquatic invasive species” (Bentley, 2011) or “arguably the most notorious brachyuran species on the planet” (Naser et al., 2012).

    The species is not so far known from Australia.


  • https://www.marinepests.gov.au/pests/identify/chinese-mitten-crab
  • Unknown
  • Not recorded
  • SE Russia, China, Korea, 42°N–20°N, estuaries and rivers (Clark et al., 1998; Hanson and Sytsma, 2008; Bentley, 2011).

    Not recorded in Australia.

    The Chinese mitten crab inhabits muddy estuaries and the lower reaches of rivers where it burrows into soft sediments. Its native and exotic range covers subtropical and temperate environments.

    This crab has successfully invaded NE Europe and the UK, and has been reported from the east and west coasts of the USA, eastern Canada into the Great Lakes, southern Iraq and Tokyo Bay, Japan (Cohen and Carlton, 1997; Clark et al., 1998; de Lafontaine, 2005; Clark et al., 2006; Dittel and Epifanio, 2009; Bentley, 2011; Doi et al., 2011; Naser et al., 2012).

    Adult settle after their planktonic larval phase in estuaries and usually, but not necessarily, migrate into freshwater rivers.

    The crab is considered a pest in those places it has invaded because its burrowing activity undermines shorelines and levees. It also disrupts fisheries by consuming bait and damaging catch in nets, and competes with and eats native fauna (summarised by Dittel and Epifanio, 2009; Gollasch, 2009; Bentley, 2011).

    The species has been recognised as a pest of considerable concern in all jurisdictions where it has been reported, including by the IUCN (Lowe et al., 2000).

    This crab is capable of carrying diseases of concern, notably white spot syndrome virus and crayfish plague (Schrimpf and Schulz, 2014; Svoboda et al., 2017).

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  • <p>Out of water image of&nbsp;a large&nbsp;<em>Eriocheir sinensis&nbsp;</em>highlighting the hairy claws that resemble 'mittens.'</p>

    Out of water image of a large Eriocheir sinensis highlighting the hairy claws that resemble 'mittens.'

    Copyright Notice: Stephan Gollasch, GoConsult. Acknowledge: true
  • <p><em>E. sinensis</em> out of the water with hairy claws not as obvious.</p>

    E. sinensis out of the water with hairy claws not as obvious.

    Marine Pest Photo album, ID confirmed by P. Davie, Qld Museum.
  • <p><em>In situ</em> image of <em>Eriocheir sinensis</em>. The distinctive 'hairy' claws can be seen in this image.</p>

    In situ image of Eriocheir sinensis. The distinctive 'hairy' claws can be seen in this image.

    Copyright Notice: Stephan Gollasch, GoConsult. Acknowledge: true
  • <p>Ventral side of male <em>Eriocheir sinensis</em>.</p>

    Ventral side of male Eriocheir sinensis.

    Marine Pest Photo album, ID confirmed by P. Davie, Qld Museum.

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