Cyrtograpsus angulatus and Chasmagnathus granulata (Grapsidae) are the two dominant decapod crustacean species in the outer parts of Mar Chiquita Lagoon, the southernmost in a series of coastal lagoons that occur along the temperate Atlantic coasts of South America. Distribution and habitat preferences (water and sediment type) in these crab species were studied in late spring. There is evidence of ontogenetic changes in habitat selection of both species. Recruitment of C. angulatus takes place mainly in crevices of tube-building polychaete (Ficopomatus enigmaticus) "reefs" and, to a lesser extent, also in other protected microhabitats (under stones). In the latter, mostly somewhat larger juveniles were found, suggesting that these are used as a refuge for growing individuals. Adults are most frequently found on unprotected muddy and sandy beaches. C. angulatus was found in all parts of Mar Chiquita Lagoon, including freshwater, brackish, and marine habitats. C. granulata, in contrast, was restricted to the lower parts of the lagoon, where brackish water predominates and freshwater or marine conditions occur only exceptionally. It showed highest population density on "dry mud" flats and in Spartina densiflora grassland, where it can build stable burrows and where high contents of organic matter occur in the sediment. Such habitats are characterized by mixed populations of juveniles (including newly settled recruits) and adults, males and females (including a high percentage of ovigerous).