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A red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus). King crabs (family Lithodidae) are thought to have undergone carcinization, having evolved from hermit crabs.

From Ancient Greek καρκῐ́νος (karkínos, crab) + English -ization (suffix forming nouns denoting the act, process, or result of doing or making something), coined by British zoologist Lancelot Alexander Borradaile (1872–1945) in a 1916 report: see the quotation.[1]



carcinization (uncountable) (American spelling, Oxford British English)

  1. (evolutionary theory, zoology) The convergent evolution of decapod crustaceans from forms dissimilar to true crabs into similar forms. [from 1916]
    • 1916, L[ancelot] A[lexander] Borradaile, Crustacea. Part II.—Porcellanopagurus: An Instance of Carcinization (British Museum (Natural History); British Antarctic (“Terra Nova”) Expedition, 1910, Natural History Report; Zoology; vol. III, no. 3), London: [] Trustees of the British Museum; [], OCLC 1123468638, pages 121 and 125:
      [page 121] Porcellanopagurus is a quite independent case of the phenomenon which may be called "carcinization," and which consists essentially in a reduction of the abdomen of a macrurous crustacean, together with a depression and broadening of its cephalothorax, so that the animal assumes the general habit of body of a crab. [...] [page 125] It may be doubted whether the conditions of life play any part other than a purely permissive one in the realization of the tendency to carcinization. [...] The tendency to carcinization, emerging independently from time to time, has led in each case to different habits, but the obligation to the change must have lain always within, not without the obligation.
    • 1994, John C[harles] Avise, “Species Phylogenies and Macroevolution”, in Molecular Markers, Natural History and Evolution, Boston, Mass.; Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, published 2001, →ISBN, part II (Application), page 309:
      [L]arval forms of the two groups [hermit crabs and king crabs] are remarkably alike; and carcinization (the evolution of crablike features) appears to have been a recurring theme in hermit crab evolution under ecological circumstances where the shells of gastropod snails are of limited availability (as for example in the deep sea).
    • 1997 January, Patsy A. McLaughlin; Rafael Lemaitre, “Carcinization in the Anomura – Fact or Fiction?: I. Evidence from Adult Morphology”, in Contributions to Zoology[2], volume 67, number 2, Amsterdam: SPB Academic Publishing, DOI:10.1163/18759866-06702001, ISSN 1383-4517, OCLC 697467856, archived from the original on 12 December 2018, page 79, column 2:
      Presumably, to become a "true crab" requires that a reptant decapod undergo carcinization (Borradaile, 1916) or brachyurization (Števcic, 1971). Although the two terms appear here to be synonymous, we believe that not all authors who have employed "carcinization" or "brachyurization" have had quite the same phenomenon in mind. For example, Martin & Abele (1986) defined carcinization as the reduction and folding of the abdomen beneath the thorax, whereas Sluys (1992) used carcinization to mean the evolution of a crab-like appearance as in lithodids. To Blackstone (1989) hermit crabs became carcinized through broadening of the carapace and reduced shell-inhabiting. In this first component we address anomuran carcinization only from the perspective of adult morphology.
    • 2004, Gary C. B. Poore, “Anomura – Hermit Crabs, Porcelain Crabs and Squat Lobsters”, in Marine Decapod Crustacea of Southern Australia: A Guide to Identification, Collingwood, Vic.: CSIRO Publishing, →ISBN, page 215:
      It seems certain that carcinisation, return to a crab-like habitus, has evolved several times in the Anomura.
    • 2009, Shane T[imothy] Ahyong; Kareen E. Schnabel; Elizabeth W. Maas, “Anomuran Phylogeny: New Insights from Molecular Data”, in Joel W. Martin, Keith A. Crandall, and Darryl L. Felder, editor, Decapod Crustacean Phylogenetics (Crustacean Issues; 18), Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, published 15 January 2015, →ISBN, abstract, page 399:
      Three independent carcinization events are identified (in Lithodidae, Porcellanidae, and Lomisidae). [...] Such a scenario may seem unlikely owing to the complex characters involved, but if carcinization has multiple, independent origins, then adaptation to dextral shell habitation may also be plausible.
    • 2010, Alexandra Hiller; Carlos Antonio Viviana; Bernd Werding, “Hypercarcinisation: An Evolutionary Novelty in the Commensal Porcellanid Allopetrolisthes spinifrons (Crustacea: Decapoda: Porcellanidae)”, in Nauplius[3], volume 18, number 1, São Paulo, Brazil: Sociedade Brasileira de Cancerologia, ISSN 2358-2936, OCLC 940906098, archived from the original on 25 April 2012, abstract, page 95:
      Porcellanids are, after brachyuran crabs, the most successful decapod group to achieve a crab-like body form through carcinisation. Unlike brachyurans, porcellanids retained the ability to swim by flapping their abdomen, armed with a well developed tail fan. Here, we present an exceptional case of carcinisation, with the South-American porcellanid, Allopetrolisthes spinifrons, an obligatory commensal of the sea-anemone species Phymactis papillosa and Phymanthea pluvia.
    • 2011, Shane T[imothy] Ahyong; Kareen A. Schnabel; Enrique Macpherson, “Phylogeny and Fossil Record of Marine Squat Lobsters”, in Gary C. B. Poore, Shane T. Ahyong, and Joanne Taylor, editors, The Biology of Squat Lobsters, Collingwood, Vic.: CSIRO Publishing; Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, →ISBN, page 78, column 1:
      Porcelain crabs (Galatheoidea: Porcellanidae) and the hairy stone crab (Lomisoidea: Lomisidae) are also highly carcinised. They represent two additional independent instances of carcinisation within the Anomura, although their derivation has received much less attention than that of the king crabs.

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  1. ^ Patsy A. McLaughlin; Rafael Lemaitre (January 1997), “Carcinization in the Anomura – Fact or Fiction?: I. Evidence from Adult Morphology”, in Contributions to Zoology[1], volume 67, issue 2, Amsterdam: SPB Academic Publishing, DOI:10.1163/18759866-06702001, ISSN 1383-4517, OCLC 697467856, archived from the original on 12 December 2018, page 80, column 1.

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