The Marine Fauna of New Zealand. Squat lobsters (Crustacea, Decapoda, Chirostyloidea)

Latest version published by The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) on 07 October 2022 The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)

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Marine squat lobsters belonging to the two superfamilies, Galatheoidea Samouelle, 1819 and Chirostyloidea Ortmann, 1892, are conspicuous elements of marine environments at most latitudes and depths. Current global diversity estimates stand at around 1300 species of galatheoids and 345 hirostyloids. The rate of discovery has not decreased in recent years; a recent book on squat lobster biology highlighted gaps in regional inventories of species, citing the New Zealand region as an example.

All species of superfamily Chirostyloidea of the New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are reviewed and inventoried from new and historical collections and revised where necessary. Collections within the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) Invertebrate Collection (NIC), the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (NMNZ), Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira (AKM), and the Australian Museum (AM), have yielded well over 1700 catalogued specimens, some of which are from the Australian EEZ and International Waters, and from depths ranging from 20 to 2340 m. This work provides the first comprehensive monographic account of the New Zealand Chirostyloidea, spanning nearly 150 years of collections (1874–2017).

Prior to this study, 38 species from two of the four families of the Chirostyloidea were known from the New Zealand region. The New Zealand chirostyloid fauna now covers three of the four families (except Kiwaidae) and comprises 86 species in eight genera: Chirostylus Ortmann, 1892, Gastroptychus Caullery, 1896, Heteroptychus Baba, 2018, Uroptychodes Baba, 2004, Uroptychus Henderson, 1888, Eumunida Smith, 1883, PseudomunidaHaig, 1979 and Sternostylus Baba, Ahyong & Schnabel, 2018. Uroptychus nitidus (A. Milne-Edwards, 1880) is herein designated type species for the genus. Twenty-six species are new to science and 23 represent new distribution records. All available material is examined and listed, all species are illustrated, and diagnoses and keys are provided. A wider phylogenetic study of the group is under way but preliminary results of DNA barcoding are used as a molecular taxonomy tool and discussed.

Chirostyloidea are typically associated with other macroinvertebrates, most commonly with large antipatharians or alcyonaceans and occasionally sponges, which are usually concentrated on marine habitats such as seamounts or deep-sea ridges. Some of their life history characteristics (abbreviated larval stages for three of the four families) and their evident resource-association have been linked to increased range restrictions and potentially higher rates of diversification than for galatheoids.

As expected, the New Zealand chirostyloid fauna shows a close biogeographic affinity with that of the tropical south-west Pacific and eastern Australia. A few species are widespread in the Indo-West Pacific and over 40% are currently considered endemic. Results of the present study demonstrate a considerably higher species richness than previously known for the New Zealand EEZ, more than doubling the known fauna of the region. Many global regions remain entirely or partially unstudied, implying that a huge potential for species discovery remains. The New Zealand region is comparatively well-sampled, although some areas remain unstudied. It is suspected that only a small number of species might be added to the regional chirostyloid diversity in the future. Major work remains, however, with the inventory of outstanding Galatheoidea squat lobsters.

Data Records

The data in this occurrence resource has been published as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), which is a standardized format for sharing biodiversity data as a set of one or more data tables. The core data table contains 704 records.

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How to cite

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

Schnabel K (2022): The Marine Fauna of New Zealand. Squat lobsters (Crustacea, Decapoda, Chirostyloidea). v1.4. The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). Dataset/Occurrence. https://nzobisipt.niwa.co.nz/resource?r=nz_chirostylidae_memoir&v=1.4


Researchers should respect the following rights statement:

The publisher and rights holder of this work is The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY 4.0) License.

GBIF Registration

This resource has been registered with GBIF, and assigned the following GBIF UUID: 55ecd075-54bc-48a2-80c3-578b6f329a32.  The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) publishes this resource, and is itself registered in GBIF as a data publisher endorsed by GBIF New Zealand.


Occurrence; Specimen; Occurrence


Kareen Schnabel
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
  • Point Of Contact
Marine Biologist
National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research
Private Bag 14-901
6241 Kilbirnie

Geographic Coverage

New Zealand waters and South Pacific Ocean

Bounding Coordinates South West [-56.25, -174.55], North East [-16.65, 147.12]

Bibliographic Citations

  1. SCHNABEL, K.E. The Marine Fauna of New Zealand. Squat lobsters (Crustacea, Decapoda, Chirostyloidea) / by Kareen E. Schnabel—Wellington: NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research), 2020 (NIWA Biodiversity Memoir, ISSN 1174-0043; 132)

Additional Metadata

marine, harvested by iOBIS

Alternative Identifiers 55ecd075-54bc-48a2-80c3-578b6f329a32