Pigment-dispersing hormone (PDH) acts to disperse pigments within the chromatophores of crustaceans. Using an antibody raised against beta-PDH from the fiddler crab Uca pugilator, we characterized the distribution of beta-PDH-like immunoreactivity in the stomatogastric nervous system of five decapod crustaceans: the crabs, Cancer borealis and Cancer antennarius, the lobsters, Panulirus interruptus and Homarus americanus, and the crayfish, Procambarus clarkii. No somata were stained in the stomatogastric ganglion (STG) or the esophageal ganglion in any of these species. Intense PDH-like staining was seen in the neuropil of the STG in P. interruptus only. In all 5 species, cell bodies, processes, and neuropil within the paired circumesophageal ganglia (CGs) showed PDH-like staining; the pattern of this staining was unique for each species. In each CG, the beta-PDH antibody stained: 1 large cell in C. borealis; 3 small to large cells in C. antennarius; 3-8 medium cells in P. clarkii; 1-4 small cells in H. americanus; and 13-17 small cells in P. interruptus. The smallest cell in each CG in C. antennarius sends its axon, via the inferior esophageal nerves, into the opposite CG; this pair of cells, not labeled in the other species studied, may act as bilateral coordinators of sensory or motor function. These diverse staining patterns imply some degree of evolutionary diversity among these crustaceans. A beta-PDH-like peptide may act as a neuromodulator of the rhythms produced by the stomatogastric nervous system of decapod crustaceans.