Post-larval development and sexual dimorphism of the spider crab Maja brachydactyla (Brachyura: Majidae)


  • Guillermo Guerao IRTA , Unitat de Cultius Experimentals
  • Guiomar Rotllant IRTA , Unitat de Cultius Experimentals



Majidae, Maja brachydactyla, morphology, juvenile, post-larval development, growth, sexual dimorphism


The post-larval development of the majid crab Maja brachydactyla Balss, 1922 was studied using laboratory-reared larvae obtained from adult individuals collected in the NE Atlantic. The morphology of the first juvenile stage is described in detail, while the most relevant morphological changes and sexual differentiation are highlighted for subsequent juvenile stages, until juvenile 8. The characteristic carapace spines of the adult phase are present in the first juvenile stage, though with great differences in the degree of development and relative size. The carapace shows a high length/weight ratio, which becomes similar to that of adults at stage 7-8. Males and females can be distinguished from juvenile stage 4, based on sexual dimorphism in the pleopods and the presence of gonopores. In addition, the allometric growth of the pleon is sex-dependent from juvenile stage 4, with females showing a positive allometry (b=1.23) and males an isometric allometry (b=1.02).


Download data is not yet available.


Andrés, M., A. Estévez and G. Rotllant. – 2007. Growth, survival and biochemical composition of spider crab Maja brachydactyla Balss, 1922 (Decapoda: Majidae) larvae reared under different stocking densities, prey: larva ratios and diets. Aquaculture, 273: 494-502. doi:10.1016/j.aquaculture.2007.10.026

Bolla Jr., E.A., M.L. Negreiros-Fransozo and A. Fransozo. – 2008. Juvenile development of Callinectes ornatus Ordway, 1863 (Crustacea: Decapoda: Portunidae), from megalopae obtained in the neuston. Zootaxa, 1788:1-20.

Clark, P.F. – 1986. The larval stages of Maja squinado (Herbst, 1788) (Crustacea: Brachyura: Majidae) reared in the laboratory. J. Nat. Hist., 20:825-836. doi:10.1080/00222938600770591

d’Udekem d’Acoz, C. – 1999. Inventaire et distribution des crustacés décapodes de l’Atlantique nord-oriental, de la Méditerranée et des eaux continentales adjacentes au nord de 25ºN. Museé National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

Felder, D.L., J.W. Martin and J.W. Goy. – 1985. Patterns in early postlarval development of decapods. In: A.M. Wenner (ed.), Larval Growth, pp. 163-225. F. Schram (series ed.), Crustacean Issues 2. Balkema Press, Rotterdam.

Felgenhauer, B.E. – 1987. Techniques for preparing crustaceans for scanning electron microscopy. J. Crustac. Biol., 7(1): 71-76. doi:10.2307/1548626

Flores, A.A.V., M.L. Negreiros-Fransozo and A. Fransozo. – 1998. The megalopa and juvenile development of Pachygrapsus transversus (Gibbes, 1850) (Decapoda, Brachyura) compared with other grapsid crabs. Crustaceana, 71(2): 197-222. doi:10.1163/156854098X00176

Flores, A.A.V, F.P.L. Marques and M.L. Negreiros-Fransozo. – 2002. Postlarval stages and growth patterns of the spider crab Pyromaia tuberculata (Brachyura, Majidae) from laboratory-reared material. J. Crustac. Biol., 22(2): 314-327. doi:10.1651/0278-0372(2002)022[0314:PSAGPO]2.0.CO;2

Fransozo, A. – 1987. Desenvolvimiento dos estágios juvenis de Sesarma (Holometopus) rectum Randall, 1840 (Decapoda, Grapsidae) obtidos em laboratório. Naturalia, 11/12: 77-87.

Fransozo, A. and M.L. Negreiros-Fransozo. – 1987. Morfologia dos primeros estágios juvenis de Eriphia gonagra (Fabricius, 1781) e Eurypanopeus abbreviatus (Stimpson, 1860) (Crustacea, Decapoda, Xanthidae), obtidos em laboratório. Papéis Avulsos Zool., 36(22): 257-277.

Fransozo, A., M.L. Negreiros-Fransozo and C.M. Hiyodo. – 1988. Développement juvénile de Menippe nodifrons Stimpson, 1859 (Crustacea, Decapoda, Xanthidae) au laboratoire. Rev. Hydrobiol. Trop., 21(4):297-308.

González-Gurriarán, E., J. Freire, J. Parapar, M.P. Sampedro and M. Urcera. – 1995. Growth at moult and moulting seasonality of the spider crab, Maja squinado (Herbst) (Decapoda:Majidae) in experimental conditions: implications for juvenile life history. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 189: 183-203. doi:10.1016/0022-0981(95)00023-K

Guerao, G., M. Rufino and P. Abelló. – 2003. Morphology of the larval and first juvenile stages of the spider crab Lissa chiragra (Brachyura: Majidae: Pisinae). J. Nat. Hist., 37(6): 647–671. doi:10.1080/00222930110116048

Guerao, G., K. Anger and C. D. Schubart. – 2007. Larvae and first-stage juveniles of the American genus Armases (Brachyura: Sesarmidae): a morphological description of two complete developments and one first zoeal stage. J. Nat. Hist., 41 (29-32):1811-1839. doi:10.1080/00222930701500431

Guerao, G., E. Pastor, J. Martin, M. Andrés, A. Estévez, A. Grau, J. Duran and G. Rotllant. -2008. The larval development of Maja squinado and M. brachydactyla (Decapoda, Brachyura, Majidae) described from plankton collected and laboratory-reared material. J. Nat. Hist., 42 (33-34): 2257-2276. doi:10.1080/00222930802254755

Guimarães, F.J and M.L. Negreiros-Fransozo. – 2005. Juvenile development and growth patterns in the mud crab Eurytium limosum (Say, 1818) (Decapoda, Brachyura, Xanthidae) under laboratory conditions. J. Nat. Hist., 39(23): 2145-2161. doi:10.1080/00222930500061254

Hebling, N.J., A. Fransozo and M.L. Negreiros-Fransozo. – 1982. Desenvolvimiento dos primeiros estágios juvenis de Panopeus herbstii H. Milne-Edwards, 1834 (Crustacea, Decapoda, Xanthidae), criadas em laboratório. Naturalia, 7: 177-188.

Hebling, N.J. and P.J. Rieger. – 2003. Desenvolvimiento juvenil de Hepatus pudibunus (Herbst) (Crustacea, Decapoda, Calappidae), em laboratório. Rev. Bras. Zool., 20(3): 531-539. doi:10.1590/S0101-81752003000300027

Ingle, R.W. – 1977. The larval and post-larval development of the scorpion spider crab, Inachus dorsettensis (Pennant) (Family: Majidae), reared in the laboratory. Bull. Br. Mus. Nat. Hist. (Zool.), 30: 331-348.

Ingle, R.W. – 1992. Larval stages of Northeastern Atlantic Crabs. An Illustrated Key. Chapman and Hall, London.

Ingle, R.W. and A.L. Rice. – 1984. The juvenile stages of eight swimming crab species (Crustacea: Brachyura: Portunidae); a comparative study. Bull. Br. Mus. nat. Hist. (Zool.), 46: 345-354.

Lebour, M.V. – 1927. Studies of the Plymouth Brachyura. I. The rearing of crabs in captivity, with a description of the larval stages of Inachus dorsettensis, Macropodia longirostris and Maja squinado. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. U.K., 14: 795-820. doi:10.1017/S0025315400058483

Lebour, M.V. -1928. The larval stages of the Plymouth Brachyura. Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 2: 473-560.

Luppi, T.A. and E.D. Spivak. – 2003. Postembryonic development of Pyromaia tuberculata (Lockington, 1877): a review of larval and postlarval morphology. Sci. Mar., 67(2): 201-214. doi:10.3989/scimar.2003.67n2201

Lwin, T.T., W. Doi, M. Yokota, C.A. Strussmann and S. Watanabe. – 2007. Juvenile morphology of thhe xanthid crab Leptodius exaratus (H. Milne-Edwards, 1834) (Decapoda: Brachyura), with notes on the appearance of sexual dimorphism. Inv. Repr. Dev., 50(4): 191-201.

Negreiros-Fransozo, M.L., K.D. Colpo and T.M. Costa. – 2003. Allometric growth in the fiddler crab Uca thayeri (Brachyura, Ocypodidae) from a subtropical mangrove. J. Crustac. Biol., 23(2): 273-279. doi:10.1651/0278-0372(2003)023[0273:AGITFC]2.0.CO;2

Negreiros-Fransozo, M.L., E.L. Wenner, D.M. Knott and A. Fransozo.– 2007. The megalopa and early juvenile stages of Calappa tortugae Rathbun, 1933 (Crustacea, Brachyura) reared in the laboratory from South Carolina neuston samples. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash., 120(4): 469-485. doi:10.2988/0006-324X(2007)120[469:TMAEJS]2.0.CO;2

Neumann, V. – 1998. A review of the Maja squinado (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura) species-complex with a key to the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean species of genus. J. Nat. Hist., 32: 1667-1684. doi:10.1080/00222939800771191

Paula, J. – 1985. The first zoeal stages of Polybius henslowi Leach, Maja squinado (Herbst), Pachygrapsus marmoratus (Fabricius) and Uca tangeri (Eydoux) (Crustacea, Decapoda, Brachyura). Arq. Mus. Boc. (Série B), 2: 137-147.

Payen, G. – 1974. Morphogenèse sexuelle de quelques Brachyoures (Cyclométopes) au cours du développement embryonnaire, larvaire et postlarvaire. Bull. Mus. Natl. Hist. Nat. (3n série), 209, Zool. 139: 202-261.

Rieger, P.J. and C. Nakagawa. – 1995. Desenvolvimiento juvenil de Chasmagnathus granulata Dana, 1851 (Crustacea, Decapoda, Grapsidae) em laboratório. Nauplius, 3: 59-74.

Rieger, P.J. and R. Beltrão. – 2000. Desenvolvimiento juvenil de Cyrtograpsus angulatus Dana (Crustacea, Decapoda, Grapsidae), em laboratório. Rev. Bras. Zool., 17(2): 405-420. doi:10.1590/S0101-81752000000200012

Schlegel, C. – 1911. Sur le développement de Maïa squinado Latr. Compte Rendu Hebdomadaire des Séances Acad. Sci. Paris, 153: 480-482.

Shen, C.J. – 1935. An investigation of the post-larval development of the shore-crab Carcinus maenas, with the special reference to the external secondary sexual characters. Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond., 1935: 1-33.

Teissier, G. – 1935. Croissance des variants sexuels chez Maia squinado L. Trav. Sta. Biol. Roscoff, 13: 93-130.

Vinuesa, J.H. and L. Ferrari. – 2008. Postlarval development of Halicarcinus planatus females (Crustacea: Decapoda: Hymenosomatidae) in the estuary of the Deseado River, Argentina. Sci. Mar., 72(1):127-132.




How to Cite

Guerao G, Rotllant G. Post-larval development and sexual dimorphism of the spider crab Maja brachydactyla (Brachyura: Majidae). Sci. mar. [Internet]. 2009Dec.30 [cited 2024May26];73(4):797-808. Available from: