DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DENNIS KUNKEL MICROSCOPY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of thin shelled rock crab larva, zoea stage (Grapsus tenuicrustatus). The life cycle of a rock crab begins with a brooding egg that is carried on the female. The egg hatches in to the first larval stage, called the zoea stage (5th zoeal stage seen in this image). These microscopic zoeae are marine pelagic plankton and are generally swept out to sea with currents, as they have very limited swimming abilities. They however can swim short distance with their thoracic appendages. The 5th zoeal stage develops in to the final larval stage called the megalopa. The megalope develops in to a juvenile crab which moults 11-13 times to reach the adult crab stage. The adult stage moult and mate once a year. These crabs (often called Natal Lightfoot Crabs) can be seen scampering in the splash zone and find shelter in rock crevices or water when startled. Magnification x27 when shortest axis printed at 25 millimetres.
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