Crustacea, the Higher Taxa

J.K. Lowry, P.B. Berents and R.T. Springthorpe
Division of Invertebrate Zoology
The Australian Museum
6 College Street, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia
Phone: 612 9320 6260
Fax: 612 9320 6050

Email Roger Springthorpe


This is the first release of an interactive information and retrieval system to the higher taxa of the crustaceans of the world. The taxa are keyed to a level at which family or generic keys can be usefully employed. All higher taxa are in place and illustrated. Most of the primary identification characters are illustrated.

The key is intended as an umbrella for the interactive keys to the crustacean families (genera and species) of the world. I hope that experts will check the interactive key to see how it works for their own crustacean groups and for any other groups. I am certain there are mistakes in the keys and probably better characters for use in identification. I am looking forward to suggestions which will improve the system.

Terminology is difficult to reconcile between different crustacean groups, but it needs to be standardized as much possible. Consequently characters are occasionally referred to in more than one way, such as antennules (antenna 1). I also look forward to suggestions about standardization of terminology, which could be published on this website. A partial glossary is provided in the form of notes within the interactive key system. This glossary will become more extensive with time. For a complete glossary of crustacean terminology and much more information about crustaceans, go to Jody Martin's website at

There are currently more than 800 crustacean families (Martin, 1999) in about 57 higher level taxa. These groups are somewhat arbitrary. For instance Amphipoda is included at subclass level, but Isopoda is included as orders. The overall aim of this project is to provide family, generic and species level keys to all crustacean groups. This is of course a herculean task which will take much time and many experts to compile. Groups such as the Polychelida or the Anaspidacea contain only one or a few families, not many species and are relatively easy to deal with, whereas groups such as the Amphipoda contain well over 100 families (and thousands of species) and taxa can be difficult to identify even at family level.

I look at the project as an electronic monographic series to the world crustaceans. Each participant who provides an interactive information and retrieval system for the project becomes the author of a monograph in the series. Any expert is welcome to participate. 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 an independent address ( ) because of its international input.

There are currently about 30 participants in the project, preparing interactive information retrieval systems at family, generic and species level.


Cite this publication as: Lowry, J.K. (1999 onwards). 'Crustacea, the Higher Taxa: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval.' Version 1: 2 October 1999.