Gustav Paulay, curator of marine malacology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, talks about larval crab development and how DNA analysis and comparisons of larval and adult crabs helps increase our understanding of different crab species.

Interview and videos produced by Anthony Rinaldo for Explore Research at the University of Florida.


Gustav Paulay: One of the most interesting groups we work on among marine life, invertebrate in general, are crabs and we have a very large crab collection, tens of thousands specimens of crabs in the museum. Crabs are fun because they are visual like we are, so actually you can usually tell them apart by your eye, but also because crabs are fairly well-known, so we can do more sophisticated things with them.

One of the interesting things that crabs do, like many marine organisms, is that when they’re babies they are brooded by their mother but then they’re released into the water column. So they end up in the plankton floating in the ocean as little itty-bitty, tiny little larval stages and they are still semi recognizable as crustaceans. They’re not as different as a caterpillars from the butterfly, but they are along those lines. You would never be able to tell a particular larval crab form, which looks more like a little shrimp, what particular crab that belongs to.

One of the great things that you can do now with molecular biology, with DNA, is you can get DNA out of the larvae, you can get DNA out of the adult, and match up the larvae with the adult. If there’s a perfect match you know that that larvae belongs to that adult. So we have done a lot of that kind of work.

Learn more about Invertebrate Zoology collection at the Florida Museum.

Explore Research at the University of Florida

You Might Also Like