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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Charles Spence Bate   1 February 1869


Feby 1— 69

My dear Sir

One word to tell you that a little time since—My Boys saw two crabs, which evidently are Portunus puber and Carcinas Mænas fighting on the Shore, the Portunus which they call “the devil crab” seized the other, threw it on its back, & then tore off every limb of the Carcinus successively & left the poor limbless wretch to perish—1 I have occasionally seen evidence of this by occasionally finding bodies of living carcini without any legs for which I could not account until now— I thought that you might like to know this fact, but it must not trouble you to reply—

CD annotations

Top of letter: ‘Perhaps worth quoting to show power of fighting.—’ ink ‘(Fighting) | Crustacea’ blue crayon


Portunus puber is now Necora puber (the velvet swimming crab). Carcinus maenas is the common shore crab. In Descent 1: 332, CD cited Bate for this information.


Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


A case of fighting in crabs (Portunus puber against Carcinus maenas) [see Descent 1: 332].

Letter details

Letter no.
Charles Spence Bate
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 82: 71
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 6590,” accessed on 23 September 2021,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 17