Invasion History

First Non-native North American Tidal Record: 1878
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record:
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record: 1878

General Invasion History:

Ligia exotica was first described from docks at Marseilles, France by Roux in 1828. As its name indicates, L. exotica is not native in the Mediterranean and is not established there (Roman 1977). This semi-terrestrial, supralittoral species has been widely distributed by shipping and full breadth of its original range is uncertain. It is native to the Indo-Pacific from Japan and China south to Madagascar and South Africa (Roman 1977; Yin et al. 2013). It is also found (and probably was introduced) on the West African coast and in the Azores (Roman 1977; United States National Museum of Natural History collections 2016). Ligia exotica is abundant in warm-temperate and mild tropical regions, but is 'apparently rare in the true tropics' (Schultz 1974). In the Western Atlantic, it is found from New Jersey to Argentina, but is apparently absent from equatorial Brazil (Richardson 1905; Van Name 1936; Schultz 1977). In the Pacific, it has been introduced to Hawaii, American Samoa, and French Polynesia (Coles et al. 2003; United States Museum of Natural History 2016). Genetic studies indicate that populations from Georgia and Hawaii are derived from populations in central China, on the southern coast of the Yellow Sea (Clone B, Yin et al. 2013).

North American Invasion History:

Invasion History on the East Coast:

In the Western Atlantic, Ligia exotica was apparently first reported from Fort Macon, North Carolina in 1878 (Harger 1880, cited by Van Name 1936), but a number of museum specimens were collected during the same time period, including in Cedar Key, Florida (FL) in 1883; Key West, FL in 1883; Tampa Bay, FL in 1884; and Charleston, South Carolina in 1891 (US National Museum of Natural History 2016). By the 1950s, it had been collected from the Florida Panhandle (St. Josephs Bay) to Padre Island, Texas (Whitten et al. 1950; US National Museum of Natural History 2016). Its wide distribution at that time suggests that it was introduced much earlier. However, it seems likely that collectors active in Florida and the Carolinas in the early 1800s (e.g. Say 1817) would have noticed this animal, if it was abundant.

Museum and published records suggest that the extension of its range north of Cape Hatteras may have occurred in the 20th century. Gould (1841) reported Ligia spp. (either exotica or oceanica) from docks in Massachusetts, probably Boston, 'but it is not likely that the present species could survive the winter at that latitude' (Van Name 1936). Ligia exotica was not included by Uhler (1878) in a list of marine invertebrates and insects from Fort Wool, Virginia (VA). It was reported from Cape Charles in 1929 (Richards 1931). At present, Ligia exotica in Chesapeake Bay extends into mesohaline waters on the north shore of the lower Potomac (e.g. Piney Point Maryland, Virnstein and Boesch 1975, cited by Lippson et al. 1979), and Crisfield (United States National Museum of Natural History collections, Godwin 1997), north to Shady Side, Sandy Point State Park, and North Point State Park (north of Baltimore) (Fofonoff, unpublished data). Specimens were collected in Atlantic coastal bays and on rock jetties (United States National Museum of Natural History 2016). The first record of L. exotica is from Hog Island, VA (1924). It was also found in Oyster, VA in Hog Island Bay in 1934 (United States National Museum of Natural History collections), and at Cape Charles, VA in 1929, on rock jetties north of Cape Charles (Richards 1931). It is abundant on Atlantic coastal jetties and Atlantic Bay shores. Ligia exotica is not mentioned in Fowler’s (1911) account of Crustacea of New Jersey, but there is a museum collection from New Jersey dated 1930, with no location given (United States National Museum of Natural History). It is now abundant on the southern shore of Delaware Bay and in the vicinity of Atlantic City (Godwin 1997, personal communication).

Invasion History in Hawaii:

Early records of Ligia exotica (e.g. Van Name 1936) referred to the native L. hawaiiensis, but L. exotica was collected in 1996 in Hilo, on the island of Hawaii (Carlton and Eldredge 2009).

Invasion History Elsewhere in the World:

Before, and shortly after, 1900, Ligia exotica was collected at a number of ports in the Caribbean and into South America including Havana, Cuba (in 1919); Antigua (in 1895); St. Thomas, Virgin Islands (in 1915); Cayenne, French Guiana (in 1900); Salvador (Bahia), Brazil (in 1887); and Montevideo (in 1888) (United States National Museum of Natural History collections). Other, possibly later, locations include the Bahamas; Isla Margarita, Venezuela; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Kensley and Schotte 1989; Gutiérrez 2010). Ligia exotica occurs at least as far south as Quequen, Argentina (34.5°S, Orensanz et al. 2002). As noted above, records appear to be rarer in the equatorial tropics, at least in the Western Hemisphere (Schultz 1974).

Ligia exotica was described from a ship in the harbor of Marseille, France in 1828, but did not become established (Roman 1977). A specimen was found in a house in Amsterdam, in 1936, but there were no further records (Holthuis 1949b). In 1905, a specimen was collected on Sao Miguel Island, in the Azores (United States Museum of Natural History 2008). However, L. exotica is not established in the Azores. Two European species, L. oceanica and L. italica are introduced and established in the Azores (Cardigos et al. 2006). Established populations of L. exotica do occur on the Atlantic coast of west-central Africa. These are probable introductions, although genetic studies would be useful to verify species identity. Specimens were collected in Liberia in 1930, and later found in the Niger Delta, the Lagoon of Lagos, and the Congo Delta (United States Museum of Natural History 2016).

Ligia exotica has been collected on remote Polynesian islands, including Rangiroa Island, in the Tuamotu Archipelago (in 1899); Raiatea, in the Society Islands (in 1927); and Pago Pago, American Samoa (in 2002, Coles et al. 2003; United States Museum of Natural History 2016).


Ligia exotica has a body with an elongate-oval shape, about twice as long as wide, and widest in the anterior part of the body and tapered posteriorly. The head is twice as wide as long, with a rounded anterior margin. The eyes are large and compound. Antennae 1 is inconspicuous and composed of three segments. Antennae 2 are about equal to its body length and each have a flagellum of 55 segments. The posterior-lateral corners of the seven thoracic and three abdominal segments are increasingly drawn backwards posteriorly. The telson is shield-shaped, ending in an obtuse lateral point, with three lateral points on each side. The biramous uropods are more than half the body length, divided roughly evenly between the basal segments and the two pairs of rami. The pereiopods (walking legs) are involved in locomotion, but in the male, the propodus (penultimate segment) of the first pair of legs has a small terminal process, absent in the female. The second pleopod of the male has a stylus-like process, with the tip curled, like the head of a violin, involved in copulation (Richardson 1905; Van Name 1936). Ligia exotica becomes reproductive at 16 mm and can reach 38.5 mm. The color may be mottled brown, gray or black, covered with granules, which may be lighter or darker than the background color (Richardson 195; Van Name 1936; Schultz 1977).


Taxonomic Tree

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:   Arthropoda
Subphylum:   Crustacea
Class:   Malacostraca
Subclass:   Eumalacostraca
Superorder:   Peracarida
Order:   Isopoda
Suborder:   Oniscidea
Infraorder:   Ligiamorpha
Family:   Ligiidae
Genus:   Ligia
Species:   exotica


Ligia guadichaudii (Milne-Edwards, 1840)
Ligia grandis (Perty, 1834)
Megaligia exotica (Verhoeff, 1928)
Ligia exotica (Roux, 1828)
Ligyda ofersii (Brandt, 1833)
Ligia olfersii (Brandt, 1833)

Potentially Misidentified Species

Ligia baudiniana
West Atlantic, Florida to Brazil. Ver close morphologically and genetically (Van Name 1936; Santamaria et al. 2014)

Ligia cinerascens
Northwest Pacific sibling species, Bohai and Yellow Sea coast, China, Japan, north to Hokkaido, and Kuril Islands (Yin et al. 2013)

Ligia hawaiiensis
Native to Hawaii (Van Name 1936)

Ligia occidentalis
Northeast Pacific species, Farallon Islands to Baja California and the Gulf of California (Van Name 1936).

Ligia oceanica
Northeast Atlantic, introduced from Massachusetts to Maine (Van Name 1936).

Ligia pallasi
Northeast Pacific species, Alaska to the Farallon Islands (Van Name 1936)



Ligia exotica has separate sexes with direct development of brooded young. Females begin reproducing at 16 mm (minimum adult size; Schultz 1977; Kensley and Schotte 1989). Fertilization is internal. Females in Florida released brooded young 28-30 days after copulation (Farr 1978). For females in the subtropical Patos Lagoon, Brazil, ranging in size from 20.7 mm to 34.3 mm, the number of embryos varied from 33 to 142, increasing with body size. Abundances were greatest in the Austral spring-autumn. Numbers of ovigerous females and juveniles were greatest in spring (October) (Lopes et al. 2008). In Maryland, L. exotica is rarely seen from December through April, but large numbers of juveniles appear in May and June (Fofonoff, personal observations). Ligia exotica in southern Brazil had a mean longevity of 1.1-1.3 years (Lopes-Leitzke et al. 2009).

Ligia exotica is adapted for survival on the borders of the land and sea. It generally avoids submersion, although it can tolerate at least four days in oxygenated seawater, but requires moist habitats on land (Tsai and Chen 1997). This isopod requires shelter, such as rocks, riprap, or logs, for moisture and temperature control (Farr 1978). In the temperate parts of its range, L. exotica endures a wide range of temperatures, up to 38°C, but is apparently dormant in winter, and seems to require temperatures of 15-20°C for activity (Tsai and Dai 2001; Lopes et al. 2008; Fofonoff, personal observations). Ligia exotica survives immersion in water of salinities as low as 7 PSU and occurs in mesohaline salinities of Chesapeake Bay as far north as Baltimore (Lippson and Lippson 1997; Fofonoff, personal observations). In Taiwan, L. exotica has colonized the shores of a freshwater stream, several kilometers inland, but has not developed tolerance for freshwater immersion (Tsai et al. 1996). Although L. exotica develops large populations, its diet has rarely been studied. In Brazil, this isopod feeds on algae, especially Polysiphonia spp., vegetable detritus, sand, and rarely, other crustaceans (Lopes-Leitzke et al. 2011). Likely predators include shorebirds, and littoral mammals, such as rats and raccoons.


macroalgae, detrtus

Trophic Status:




General HabitatCoarse Woody DebrisNone
General HabitatMarinas & DocksNone
General HabitatRockyNone
General HabitatVessel HullNone
General HabitatMangrovesNone
Salinity RangeMesohaline5-18 PSU
Salinity RangePolyhaline18-30 PSU
Salinity RangeEuhaline30-40 PSU
Tidal RangeMid IntertidalNone
Tidal RangeHigh IntertidalNone
Tidal RangeSupratidalNone
Vertical HabitatLittoralNone

Tolerances and Life History Parameters

Minimum Temperature (ºC)-7Typical low winter air temperature (20 F), Chesapeake Bay
Maximum Temperature (ºC)38.7Field, littoral region, Taiwan (Tsai and dai 2001)
Minimum Salinity (‰)7Experimental and Field Data (Lippson et al 1979; Lippson et al. 1997; Tsai et al. 1996)
Maximum Salinity (‰)55Experimental Data (Tsai et al. 1996)
Minimum Length (mm)16Minimum adult size (Schultz 1977; Kensley and Schotte 1989)
Maximum Length (mm)38.5Maximum adult size (Schultz 1977; Kensley and Schotte 1989)
Broad Temperature RangeNoneWarm temperate-Tropical
Broad Salinity RangeNoneMesohaline-Hyperhaline

General Impacts

Although Ligia exotica is widely introduced, no economic or ecological impacts have been reported. 'Sea roaches' may be aesthetically unpleasant, but their impact on coastal resources is presumably insignificant. Its abundance in the upper intertidal and spray-zone on the southern Atlantic coasts of North America suggests that it may play an important role, but ecological impacts seem to have been little studied. This isopod grazes on diatoms and encrusting algae growing on hard surfaces (Carefoot and Taylor 1996; Schultz 1977). The quantitative importance of its grazing is unknown. Ligia exotica is a potential prey item for many species, especially shorebirds. However, we have found no information on its role in marine or terrestrial food webs.

Regional Distribution Map

Bioregion Region Name Year Invasion Status Population Status
NA-ET3 Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras 1924 Def Estab
NWP-2 None 0 Native Estab
NWP-3a None 0 Native Estab
NWP-4a None 0 Native Estab
NWP-3b None 0 Native Estab
EA-III None 0 Native Estab
CIO-II None 0 Native Estab
CIO-IV None 0 Native Estab
EAS-VI None 0 Native Estab
EAS-I None 0 Native Estab
CAR-VII Cape Hatteras to Mid-East Florida 1878 Def Estab
CAR-I Northern Yucatan, Gulf of Mexico, Florida Straits, to Middle Eastern Florida 1883 Def Estab
CAR-IV None 1895 Def Estab
CAR-V None 1989 Def Estab
SA-III None 1887 Def Estab
SA-II None 1888 Def Estab
NEA-VI None 1905 Def Unk
WA-II None 1930 Def Estab
CAR-VI None 1900 Def Estab
MED-II None 1828 Def Failed
SP-XXI None 1996 Def Estab
NA-ET4 Bermuda 1976 Def Estab
SP-IX None 2002 Def Estab
G070 Tampa Bay 1884 Def Estab
M080 New Jersey Inland Bays 1930 Def Estab
G310 Corpus Christi Bay 1950 Def Estab
S190 Indian River 0 Def Estab
G260 Galveston Bay 1938 Def Estab
M090 Delaware Bay 1930 Def Estab
M130 Chesapeake Bay 1929 Def Estab
G130 Pensacola Bay 1977 Def Estab
G250 Sabine Lake 1940 Def Estab
G268 _CDA_G268 (Austin-Oyster) 1950 Def Estab
G270 Brazos River 1950 Def Estab
G280 Matagorda Bay 1950 Def Estab
G290 San Antonio Bay 0 Def Estab
G300 Aransas Bay 1950 Def Estab
G320 Upper Laguna Madre 1950 Def Estab
G330 Lower Laguna Madre 1940 Def Estab
S080 Charleston Harbor 1891 Def Estab
WA-V None 0 Crypto Estab
EA-IV None 0 Native Estab
EA-V None 0 Native Estab
SP-XVI None 1927 Def Estab
SP-XX None 1899 Def Estab
G060 Sarasota Bay 1964 Def Estab
G078 _CDA_G078 (Waccasassa) 1984 Def Estab
G080 Suwannee River 1883 Def Estab
G086 _CDA_G086 (Econfina-Steinhatchee) 1984 Def Estab
G108 _CDA_G108 (St. Andrew-St. Joseph Bays) 1935 Def Estab
G160 East Mississippi Sound 1931 Def Estab
G170 West Mississippi Sound 1930 Def Estab
M110 Maryland Inland Bays 2007 Def Estab
M128 _CDA_M128 (Eastern Lower Delmarva) 1924 Def Estab
S020 Pamlico Sound 1982 Def Estab
S030 Bogue Sound 1878 Def Estab
S040 New River 1986 Def Estab
S120 Savannah River 2003 Def Estab
S140 St. Catherines/Sapelo Sounds 1976 Def Estab
S180 St. Johns River 1965 Def Estab
S183 _CDA_S183 (Daytona-St. Augustine) 1984 Def Estab
S200 Biscayne Bay 1965 Def Estab
S206 _CDA_S206 (Vero Beach) 1883 Def Estab
G100 Apalachicola Bay 1939 Def Estab
AUS-X None 1932 Def Estab
AUS-II None 0 Crypto Estab
AUS-XIV None 1971 Crypto Estab
AUS-I None 0 Crypto Estab
NEA-II None 1936 Def Failed
CAR-III None 2005 Def Estab
NWP-4b None 0 Native Estab
SA-I None 1935 Def Estab
CAR-II None 1884 Def Estab
AG-3 None 0 Native Estab
AG-5 None 0 Native Estab
CIO-III None 0 Native Estab
M060 Hudson River/Raritan Bay 2017 Def Estab

Occurrence Map

OCC_ID Author Year Date Locality Status Latitude Longitude


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Cardigos, F. and 5 authors (2006) Non-indigenous marine species of the Azores., Helgoland Journal of Marine Research 60: 160-169

Carefoot, Thomas H. (1989) Diet and its effect on oxygen consumption in the semiterrestrial isopod Ligia, Monitore Zoologico Italiano Monographia 4: 193-210

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Carlton, James T.; Eldredge, Lucius (2009) Marine bioinvasions of Hawaii: The introduced and cryptogenic marine and estuarine animals and plants of the Hawaiian archipelago., Bishop Museum Bulletin in Cultural and Environmental Studies 4: 1-202

Clark, Scott T.; Robertson, Philip B. (1982) Shallow water marine isopods of Texas., Contributions in Marine Science 25: 45-59

Coles, S. L.; Reath, P. R.; Skelton, P. A.; Bonito, V; DeFelice; Basch, L. (2003) Introduced marine species in Pago Pago Harbor, Fagatele Bay and the National Park Coast, American Samoa., Bishop Museum Technical Report 26: 1-24

Dalens, H. (1993) Two new genera of terrestrial isopods (Crustacea: Isopoda: Oniscidea) from north-western Western Australia, Records of the Western Australia Museum 16(2): 257-267

Eldredge, L. G.; Smith, C. M. (2001) Introduced marine species of Hawaii, Bishop Museum Technical Report 21: 1-60

Espino, Fernando; Otero-Ferrer, Francisco; Bosch. Néstor E.; Coca, Josep; Haroun, Ricardo; Tuya, Fernando (2020) Widespread demographic explosion of a non-indigenous hydrozoan on an oceanic island, Scientia Marina 84(2): 111-118

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Kensley, Brian; Schotte, Marilyn (1989) <missing title>, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.. Pp. <missing location>

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Lippson, Alice J.; Haire, Michael S.; Holland, A. Frederick; Jacobs, Fred; Jensen, Jorgen; Moran-Johnson, R. Lynn; Polgar, Tibor T.; Richkus, William (1979) Environmental atlas of the Potomac Estuary, Martin Marietta Corp., Baltimore, MD. Pp. <missing location>

Lippson, Alice Jane; Lippson, Robert L. (1997) <missing title>, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Pp. <missing location>

Lopes-Leitzke, Elis R.; Dumont, Luiz F.C.; D’Incao, Fernando (2009) Growth of Ligia exotica (Isopoda: Oniscidea: Ligiidae) in two estuarine regions of Patos Lagoon, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 89(4): 735-741

Lopes-Leitzke, Elis Regina; da Silva eSouza Macedo, Camila Wally; Azevedo Longaray, Deise; D’Incao, Fernando (2011) Natural diet of Ligia exotica (Crustacea, Isopoda, Ligiidae) in two estuarine regions of Patos Lagoon, Rio gGande do Sul, Brazil., Atlantica 33(3): 149-160

Lopes, Elis R. C.; Blasina, Juliana R.; Dumont, Luiz F. C.; D’Incao, Fernando (2006) [Reproductive biology of Ligia exotica (Crustacea, Isopoda, Ligiidae) in Rio Grande, Rio Grande do Sul State, Brazil.}, Iheringia Series Zoologie 96(1): 5-12

Mead, A.; Carlton, J. T.; Griffiths, C. L. Rius, M. (2011b) Introduced and cryptogenic marine and estuarine species of South Africa, Journal of Natural History 39-40: 2463-2524

Orensanz, Jose Maria and 14 other authors (2002) No longer the pristine confines of the world ocean: a survey of exotic marine species in the southwestern Atlantic, Biological Invasions 4(1-2): 115-143

Power, Alan; Mitchell, Marcy; Walker, Randal; Posey, Martin; Alphin, Troy; Belcher, Carolyn (2006) <missing title>, University of Georgia Marine Extension Service, Athens. Pp. <missing location>

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Roman, Marie-Louise (1977) Les oniscoides halophiles de Madagascar (Isopoda, Oniscoidea), Beaufortia 26(334): 107-151

Ruiz, Gregory M.; Geller, Jonathan (2018) Spatial and temporal analysis of marine invasions in California, Part II: Humboldt Bay, Marina del Re, Port Hueneme, and San Francisco Bay, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center & Moss Landing Laboratories, Edgewater MD, Moss Landing CA. Pp. <missing location>

Saglam, Naim; Saunders, Ralph; Lang, Shirley A.' Shain, Daniel H. (2018) Phylogeny and cocoon production in the parasitic leech Myzobdella lugubris Leidy, 1851 (Hirudinidae, Piscicolidae), Acta Parasitologica 63(1): 15-26
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Santamaria, Carlos A.; Larson, Alexandra J. ; Ambrosio, Louis J.; La Luz, Anngelyk M.; Rankin, Keegan W. (2022) First report of the introduced isopod Ligia exotica Roux, 1828 in rocky intertidal habitats of Midway Atoll, Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument as confirmed by morphological and molecular approaches, BioInvasions Records 11: In press

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Schultz, George A. (1982) Terrestrial isopods of North Carolina, Brimleyana 8: 1-26

Schultz, George A.; Johnson, Clifford (1984) Terrestrial Isopod Crustaceans from Florida (Oniscoidea). Tylidae, Ligiidae, Halophilosciidae, Philosciidae, and Rhyscotidae, Journal of Crustacean Biology 4(1): 154-171

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Tsai, Min-Li; Chen, Hon-Cheng (1997) Variations of reproductive traits of two semi-terrestrial isopods, Ligia exotica and L. taiwanensis (Crustacea, Ligiidae) in southern Taiwan, Zoological Studies 36(1): 33-41

Tsai, Min-Li; Dai, Chang-Feng (2001) Life history plasticity and reproductive strategy enabling the invasion of Ligia exotica (Crustacea: Isopoda) from the littoral zone to an inland creek, Marine Ecology Progress Series 210: 175-184

Tsai, Min-Li; Dia, Chang-Feng; Chen, Hon-Cheng. (1996) On the repsonses of two semiterrestrial isopods, Ligia exotica and Ligia taiwanensis (Crustacea), from Taiwan to osmotic stress and the routes of land colonization by isopods, Acta Zoologica Taiwanica 7(2): 19-28

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Whitten, H. L.; Rosene, Hilda F.; Hedgpeth, J. W. (1950) Invertebrate fauna of Texas Coast Jetties: a preliminary survey., Publications in Marine Science of the University of Texas 1(2): 53-87

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