Crustacean celebrities of Aotearoa New Zealand on display at Te Papa

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

Opening 22 May, 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.

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, so 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.

Hosted in The Back Yard of Te Papa’s Te Taiao | Nature, hands-on interactives and real specimens explore the fascinating world and smart survival tricks of these unusual creatures. Take a digital deep dive into a special web hub to discover their superpowers.

“We’re thrilled to be able 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’ kōura 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.

Clever Crustaceans will tour a number of regional galleries around the motu (country) and coincides with the International Crustacean Congress, hosted at Te Papa between 22–26 May 2023.


Media Contacts

Jessica Rowley, Senior Media Advisor, NIWA 04 386 0338 |

Heather Byrne, Senior Communications Advisor, Te Papa 029 601 0120 |


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