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Although superficially resembling true crabs, porcelain crabs are sometimes known as half-crabs and are in the infra-order Anomura and thus more closely related to squat lobsters than to crabs. Because of its wide geographical range, several authors have questioned whether Petrolisthes armatus is a single species or a species complex. It has been suggested that there are three separate lineages, one from the warm-temperate Atlantic region, one from the Caribbean and one from the eastern Pacific. Research using mitochondrial DNA to study the genetic variability of Petrolisthes armatus has led to the conclusion that it is monophyletic, a single species with an exceptionally wide range. In fact, specimens from the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and Ecuador were found to be more closely related to those in the Gulf of Mexico than to individuals in other parts of the Pacific.