Key For The Identification Of Mediterranean Brachyuran Megalopae
Based on larval literature, an identification key has been constructed for the megalopae of 55 species of Mediterranean Brachyura. This key is based mainly on external morphological characteristics visible, by using a microscope, limiting the necessity for dissection of specimens. Characteristics used include presence/absence of ornamentation on the carapace, number of abdominal somites, number and position of setae and/or spines on antennula, antenna, pereiopods and structure of uropods, etc. Partial dissection is only required to count the setae on the scaphognathite margin. Using the above characters, it is also possible to gather almost all the families into groups. However, the megalopae of Portunidae as well as those of the three species of Brachynotus genus are similar to each other and their identification at a specific level requires the use of features somehow variable and difficult to count. In the Majidae, the megalopae of 14 species are already known. The complexity of morphological characters typical of this family makes it difficult to define characters common to all spider crab megalopae. Nevertheless, the key may be an aid for carcinology studies, especially those including sorting and identification of megalopae from plankton samples.