The emergence of king crabs from a hermit crab-like ancestor is one of the most curious events in decapod evolution. King crabs comprise two taxa, Lithodidae and Hapalogastridae, and while lithodids have formed the focus of various anatomical studies, the internal anatomy of hapalogastrids has never been studied although this group might represent a more ancestral morphological condition within king crabs than lithodids do. To better understand the evolutionary transformation of pagurid-like hermit crabs into king crabs, we studied the hemolymph vascular system and associated organs of representatives of Hapalogaster and present here the first micro-computer tomography data pertaining to the internal anatomy of hapalogastrids. Our results for Hapalogastridae are compared with existing and new data on Paguridae and Lithodidae and are discussed in the light of the process of carcinization or evolutionary transformation into a crab-like habitus. Hapalogaster resembles both pagurids on the one hand and lithodids on the other, not only with regard to external morphological characters but also in terms of certain internal anatomical features. In this and other respects, Hapalogaster represents an evolutionary intermediate form that connects pagurids and lithodids.

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Contributions to Zoology

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Keiler, J., Richter, S., & Wirkner, C. S. (2015). The anatomy of the king crab Hapalogaster mertensii Brandt, 1850 (Anomura: Paguroidea: Hapalogastridae): new insights into the evolutionary transformation of hermit crabs into king crabs. Contributions to Zoology, 84(2), 149–165.