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Crustacean celebrities on display at Waikato Museum

5 September 2023

Crabs, shrimps, lobsters, barnacles, slaters and other crustaceans are the stars of a new mini exhibition presented by Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato, NIWA and Te Papa.

Opening on Friday 8 September 2023, Mawhiti Tino Rawe | Clever Crustaceans is a playful exploration of the bizarre and diverse world of five marine crustaceans. They can change their shape, circle the globe, and maybe even cure cancer – crustaceans are the unsung heroes of the sea.

“We’re very excited to be hosting Mawhiti Tino Rawe | Clever Crustaceans and give Hamiltonians the opportunity to explore the fascinating underwater world of these unusual creatures. Rich with scientific research, the exhibition features hands-on interactives and real specimens so we’re sure it will entertain curious minds of all ages.” said Liz Cotton, Director of Museum and Arts, Waikato Museum.

NIWA scientists, Rachael Peart and Kareen Schnabel, worked with Te Papa experts to deliver this mini exhibition that showcases the importance and special capabilities of the ‘insects of the sea’.

“Crustaceans are arthropods, which means they have segmented bodies and exoskeletons just like insects. I love describing them as the ‘insects of the sea’. They are captivating creatures. They have adapted to live in an incredible variety of habitats, from beaches and shallows, all the way down to the deepest ocean trenches,” said Dr Schnabel.

“We’re thrilled to highlight these unsung heroes of our ecosystem. We want visitors to touch, explore and discover these weird and wonderful crustaceans of Aotearoa New Zealand. We were inspired by the work of scientists to understand and protect these crustaceans and their homes, and we’re so excited to partner with NIWA on this special project,” said Dan Parke, Exhibition Experience Developer, Te Papa.

“We are telling the stories of some of our favourite critters. Visitors will learn about the ‘shapeshifter’ kooura with its unexpected life stages as a long-distance open-ocean wanderer, the lightning speed with which the native mantis shrimp spears its lunch, the exceptional eyesight of the open ocean Phronima amphipod – which is even being used in techniques to detect cancer in humans – and the radical changes barnacles have undergone to get their kai (food),” adds Dr Schnabel.

Created by Te Papa in collaboration with NIWA Taihoro Nukurangi, Mawhiti Tino Rawe | Clever Crustaceans  is open daily at Waikato Museum from 8 September to 3 December 2023 and entry is free. 


Image credit: Rock lobster phyllosoma, Alexander Semenov.