Harlequin Crab – Platypodiella picta

The Harlequin Crab is a species in the order of the Decapoda and thus belongs to the subphylum of the Crustacea. Platypodiella picta was first described in 1869 by A. Milne-Edwards.

Harlequin Crab - Platypodiella picta Crustacea species diving canary islands canaries atlantic ocean
Harlequin Crab – Platypodiella picta


The Harlequin Crab has a solid body with comparatively thick limbs. Moreover, it is very flat.

Its basic colouration is white to beige. On the body and legs are orange spots with a dark orange to red borders. The spots are more or less symmetrical along the longitudinal axis of the body. Colour variations are also possible.

Its maximum size is 3cm.

Habitat and Distribution

Platypodiella picta lives on a solid ground with hiding places and/or algae growth. They are often found in holes between the White Encrusting Zoanthid and/or the Canarian Sea Mat. The maximum depth in which it occurs is about 30m.

When diving in the Canaries you can observe them rather rarely, unless you target to dive to the Zoanthids. Here you can find exact locations with confirmed sightings.

In addition, the distribution area of the Harlequin Crab extends from the Canary Islands to the Gulf of Guinea. They are also found around various island groups such as Sao Tome, Ascension, Madeira and Cape Verde.


There is not much known about the biology of Platypodiella picta.

The species Platypodiella spectabilis, from the same genus, feeds on algae.

The Harlequin Crab belongs to the family of the Xanthidae, which are poisonous. The poison is similar to that of puffer fishes and is probably produced by symbiotic bacteria.







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