There are over 30,000 lots of Crustacea in Te Papa’s collection – more than 100,000 specimens. The largest crustacean collections in the country are held by Te Papa and NIWA.
Te Papa's collection includes specimens deposited in the 19th century but most have been collected over the last 60 years. The collection includes about 240 primary types.
The strongest elements of the collections are the shrimps and prawns, king crabs, parasitic copepods, free-living harpacticoid copepods and the larvae of decapod Crustacea. This world-class collection of larvae includes the developmental stages of shrimps and prawns, ghost shrimps, brachyuran crabs, hermit crabs, half crabs, palinurid lobsters, and squat lobsters.
The well represented groups reflect the collecting done by specialists at Te Papa as well as outside taxonomists who deposit collections here.
The collection is studied regularly by Te Papa staff as well as outside specialists at NIWA, other local research institutions, and workers overseas. Outside specialists either borrow specimens or visit Te Papa to study them here. In particular, the collection supports taxonomy, the science of identifying, describing and naming of new species and species groups. Evolutionary relationships of species and groups are revised using taxonomic information. The collections also contribute to ecological and other biological research.
Many of the crustacean specimens are preserved in 75% ethyl alcohol and stored in vials, jars, or pails, depending on size. Crustaceans preserved in alcohol lose their colour but their complicated limbs remain accessible for scientific examination, which is not the case when they are dried.