Lancer Swimcrab – Portunus hastatus

The Lancer Swimcrab is a species from in order of the Decapoda and thus belongs to the subphylum of the Crustacea. Portunus hastatus was first described by Linnaeus in 1767.

Lancer Swimcrab Portunus hastatus Crustacea decapoda species diving canary islands canaries atlantic ocean
Lancer Swimcrab – Portunus hastatus


The Lancer Swimcrab has a brownish colour with white and black patterns. Most striking are the first pair of legs, which is equipped with long scissors, as well as the last pair of legs, which protrudes in a curve far backwards and is very wide and flat.

The body of Portunus hastatus is just as flat and the eyes are protruding. Moreover, it is up to 6cm wide.

Habitat and Distribution

Preferably, the Lancer Swimcrab rests on sandy or muddy ground. It can be found at depths of down to 55m.

When diving in the Canaries you can see them rather rare.

The distribution area of ​​Portunus hastatus also extends in the eastern Atlantic from France, along the European and African coast, to South Africa. They can also be seen around the Azores, Madeira, Cape Verde and in the Mediterranean Sea.


The Lancer Swimcrab feeds on detritus and other small crustaceans.

I could only observe it at night time.

Portunus hastatus can quickly dig into the sand if there is danger. Probably it can swim well. The rear pair of legs is noticeably wide and can offer better propulsion.