Introduction to


Provide an interactive information retrieval system for the world crustaceans.



  1. Provide illustrated, interactive keys to world crustaceans
  2. Provide morphological descriptions to world crustaceans
  3. Provide glossaries of morphological terminology
  4. Provide current family level lists of world crustaceans
  5. Provide links to other crustacean sites


Intended Outcomes

  1. Accurate and efficient identification and information retrieval systems for crustaceans
  2. Ecological research will be facilitated
  3. Environmental management will have a stronger scientific basis



Because plants and animals are threatened by human activities all over the world there is great demand for better ecological management. Unfortunately, this is severely impeded by the large biological knowledge deficit. For example, faunas are often poorly described and catalogued with possibly 90% of species being undescribed. Not only is there a need to promote taxonomic studies, but there is also the imperative of making taxonomic information accessible to non-specialists.

Difficulties in identification (particularly invertebrates) often make studies in ecology, conservation or environmental impact incomplete. Studies that include organisms identified at order or family level give little indication of species diversity. But these groups often provide the basic framework of whatever ecological system is under threat.

Crustaceans are particularly useful in aquatic environmental studies for several reasons. They are diverse and abundant in many habitats, play important roles in ecosystem processes, are often good indicators of stressed/polluted conditions, are relatively amenable to life history studies and frequently have commercial and cultural significance. They do, however, suffer the following difficulty. At the moment, identification of crustaceans by non-experts is extremely difficult and time-consuming. Descriptive literature (including dichotomous keys) is often scattered and difficult to find. Terminology is jingoistic and often varies from one crustacean group to another. A non-expert, who wants to use crustaceans in his work must either, pay a taxonomist to identify his crustaceans or try to do the identifications himself. The problems are that there are not many experts and all of them are over committed and trying to identify without expert help is inefficient and often leads to inaccurate or inadequate identifications.

We think that if crustaceans were easier to identify and to learn about, then they would be used more often in survey work, in ecological studies and by young taxonomists. We also think that if they could be identified more efficiently and more accurately, then the quality of all studies using these animals would be greatly enhanced.



The task is enormous. There are currently more than 800 families of crustaceans and well over 40,000 species. Although some groups such as crabs and shrimps are reasonably well known on a world-wide basis, other groups, such as amphipods, are well known for only a few geographic areas.



This task can only be implemented with the help of the world's crustacean experts. At the moment 30 crustacean taxonomists are involved in the program.

The first task is to write an umbrella key to the higher taxa of the crustaceans. The second task is to develop keys to the world families. For crustacean groups with few families keys will be developed at generic or species level.

The most effective method for producing complex, illustrated, interactive keys is the DELTA system. This Windows based programs is a taxonomic data base which stores morphological information in such a way that it can be used to produce among other things, taxonomic keys and natural language descriptions.

A series of workshops is being implemented to teach taxonomists how to use DELTA to produce information retrieval systems for the website. The first Crustacean Delta Workshop took place at the Darling Marine Center, University of Maine in July 1999. Ten crustacean taxonomists took part. These included established workers and students.

The second workshop will be held at the Australian Museum, Sydney in the last week of October 1999. A third workshop is currently planned for April or May 2000 at the Kristineberg Marine Research Station in Sweden.

The databases produced from these workshops will come on line as they are finished and be accessible through the Australian Museum Online website. Each database will be held at the institution that produced it and maintained by its author. In this way interactive keys to the world crustaceans will be developed over time.

This project is, in effect, an electronic monographic series to the world crustacea. Each particpant who provides an interactive information an retrieval system for the project becomes the author of a monograph in the series. Any expert is welcome to paricipate. Potential authors should contact me at As family, generic or species level groups are finished they will be added to the website. The site is developed and maintained by the Australian Museum, but has and independent address ( because of its innternational input.


Project Managers

Jim Lowry
Division of Invertebrate Zoology
The Australian Museum
6 College Street
Sydney, NSW 2010

Les Watling
School of Marine Sciences
Darling Marine Center
193 Clark's Road
University of Maine
Walpole, Maine 04573

Matz Berggren
Kristineberg Marine Research Station



Shane Ahyong - stomatopods

Matz Berggren - shrimps

Niel Bruce - isopods

Dr Lene Buhl-Mortensen - amphipods

Dave Camp - stomatopods

Peter Davie - brachyurans

Sarah Gerkin - cumaceans

Exequiel Gonzalez - amphipods

Mr Todd Haney

Pilar Haye - cumaceans

Cees Hof - stomatopods

Di Jones - barnacles

Jean Just - amphipods and isopods (attn: Jean Just)

Stephen Keable - isopods
Email Stephen Keable

Brian Kensley - isopods, shrimps

Dr Kim Larsen

Sarah LeCroy - amphipods

Jim Lowry - amphipods

Rosalie Maddocks - ostracods

Pat McLaughlin - anomurans

Mr Kenneth Meland

Alan Myers - amphipods

Andrew Parker - ostracods

Rachael Peart - amphipods

Gary Poore - isopods

Ruben Rios - carideans

Jim Thomas - amphipods

Genefor Walker-Smith - leptostracans

Les Watling - cumaceans

George Wilson - isopods
Email George (Buz) Wilson

Jill Yager - remipedes

Peter Firminger - Web Manager