Epibionts on both living and fossil decapod crustaceans may serve as valuable proxies for paleoecological factors such as behavior and environment. Prevalence of epibionts, as observed primarily on the carapaces of fossil brachyurous decapod crustaceans, appears to be less than observed on living crabs, based upon observations in the literature, and from the study of a limited preserved biological and fossil collection. Among these factors, the three most important are that many extant epibionts do not possess skeletal structures and, therefore, are unlikely to be preserved; the epicuticle upon which epibionts attach to living brachyurans is lightly calcified and tends to be lost readily as a result of taphonomic processes; and the most common mode of preservation of fossil brachyurans is in concretions which tend to break open and leave a layer of cuticle on the counterpart, thus obscuring the potential surface of attachment of epibionts. Other factors such as the life habits of the crab, whether burrowing, burying, or remaining above the substrate; lifestyle, whether benthic or pelagic; and duration of the intermolt phase of the organism also play important roles in potential prevalence of epibionts. Careful preparation of part and counterpart remains of brachyurans as well as reference to the occurrence of epibionts in systematic studies will enhance knowledge of the host and epibiont.
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Vol. 78 • No. 5