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A lobster sits in a bowl shaped coral.


Some shelled, some not, this huge group of mostly marine invertebrates includes crabs, crayfishes, lobsters, shrimp and barnacles. Crustaceans come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny, shrimplike krill—an important food for many of Shedd’s animals—to the burly Tasmanian king crab, which can weigh nearly 40 pounds. Their common characteristics include a protective exoskeleton, gills and two pairs of antennae.

Tasmanian king crab

Burly is the best way to describe the Tasmanian king crab, one of the world's largest crab species. The female's broad, oval carapace, or outer shell, can be larger than a football, and she can weigh 15 pounds. The male can be twice as massive! Both sexes are equipped with two claws. The female uses her equal-sized claws to hunt and eat slow-moving smaller crabs, snails and sea stars, or scavenge the seafloor for carrion. The male, however, has one supersized claw that, despite its menacing giant pincer, is all for display. He waves it to impress a mate or chase off a competitor.

“Crustaceans are incredible animals. It is easy to forget that the tiny krill is the most abundant animal on the planet by mass.”

Dan Lorbeske, Senior Aquarist
Spiny lobster on a sandy bottom underwater.

Stay-at-home lobsters

Lobster larvae may be little, but they can travel a long, long way. While larvae can drift between continents, Caribbean spiny lobsters are most likely to stay within the basin in which they were born, according to recent findings by a team including Shedd scientist Andy Kough. This new knowledge may enhance sustainable management across the Caribbean.

American lobster

Japanese deep-water carrier crab

Australian southern rock lobster

Mantis shrimp

Harlequin shrimp

Dock shrimp