Flora index
Fauna index
guide to the mangroves of singapore
Peter K L Ng and N Sivasothi (editors)
Vinegar crabs

Episesarma spp.
Family Grapsidae

4-5 cm

Members of this wide ranging genus are usually burrowing crabs, digging holes at the base of trees and mud lobster mounds.

They are primarily leaf-eaters and are known as pests of mangrove plantations for their habit of attacking propagules. They will also scavenge meat like many other crabs. The Teochew are known to pickle this crab in black sauce with vinegar, and take it with porridge. The Thais like it salted, with the roe or simply fried whole.
close-up of crab climbing
Episesarma climbing on
Avicennia tree; note the squarish
carapace and splayed legs

fried crabs on a plate
Tree-climbing or Vinegar crabs
(Episesarma spp.) sold with
eggs (gravid) at Chatuchat market
in Bangkok, Thailand
They emerge at dusk to being feeding on the forest floor and have been observed climbing up trees to heights of more than six metres.
wide shot of crab climbing
Episesarma hides on the
reverse side of tree trunk
from a predator
Tree-climbing crabs can be seen more easily in the day from the boardwalk at Sungei Buloh Nature Park during high tide.

At this time, however, they climb only high enough to clear the water level and remain motionless on tree-trunks, leaves or boardwalk legs.
crab climbing at night
Night low tide

crab climbing in the daytime
Day high tide
This is probably a predator-avoidance behaviour, especially with the many predatory species of fish and crabs that hunt with the incoming tide. Out of the water, they remain motionless to avoid other predators like kingfishers, monitor lizards and otters.
Of the three species found in Singapore, the Violet vinegar crab (E. versicolor) is one of the most common species, with a distinctive violet palm and the fingers white-tipped. It prefers the seaward part of the mangroves.
close-up of claws
E. versicolor

close-up of claws
E. chengtongense

close-up of claws
E. singaporense
close-up of crab showing  front view
E. chengtongense
The Pink-fingered vinegar crab (E. chentongense), which has a violet palm with pink and white finger tips, is more common in the seaward areas.
Like the other two species, the Singapore vinegar crab (E. singaporense) was originally described from Singapore and has entirely red claws. It is common in or near mud lobster mounds.

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What is mangrove?

The Ecosystem


Indirect uses
Potential uses

About Mangroves
in Singapore

Mangroves to visit
From "A Guide to Mangroves of Singapore", Peter K. L. Ng and N. Sivasothi (editors)
Volume 1: The Ecosystem and Plant Diversity and Volume 2: Animal Diversity
Authors: Kelvin K. P. Lim, Dennis H. Murphy, T. Morgany, N. Sivasothi, Peter K. L. Ng,
B. C. Soong, Hugh T. W. Tan, K. S. Tan & T. K. Tan
BP Guide to Nature Series published by the Singapore Science Centre, sponsored by British Petroleum
2001 Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, The National University of Singapore & The Singapore Science Centre