A little spider crab. Photo: Cédric d’Udekem d’Acoz of the Royal Belgium Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels.
7 July 2016

A tiny little-known crab with nutcracker-like fingers has been named after a University of Queensland School of Biological Sciences Emeritus Professor.

The newly named Lucasinus genus of spider crabs honours Emeritus Professor John Lucas.

It was named by Museum Victoria Marine Biology Principal Curator Dr Gary Poore, in recognition of Professor Lucas’s pioneering work on spider crabs.

Dr Poore has identified three spider crab species in the new genus: Lucascinus coralicola, Lucascinus keijibabai and Lucascinus bedfordi.

Professor Lucas said the little-known crabs had been neglected by researchers for many years, probably because of their small size and secretive habits.

“However, they turned out to be excellent material for my PhD thesis and, after publishing a number of papers on the crabs, I wrote a review in 1980 of what was known about them,” he said.

“There has been much recent interest in these little spider crabs as they appear in environmental surveys, and my review has been used in about 90 publications.“

Professor Lucas said Dr Poore had told him the 1980 review was “well-thumbed and still essential”.

Although Professor Lucas started in crab research, he switched to studying Great Barrier Reef species such as the crown of thorns starfish, giant clams and blacklip pearl oysters when he moved from Western Australia to Queensland.

Professor Lucas was based at James Cook University from 1968 to 2000, where he was head of Aquaculture and supervised 50 postgraduate students, and he served on many scientific and government committees.

He received the Australian Marine Sciences Association Inc Silver Jubilee Award in 2003.

“I learned several lessons along the way,” he said.

“One was the advantage of timely research on important animals or topics: it is not just what you do and how well you do it, but what you do it on.

“Another was to be prepared for unexpected findings and pursue them.”

Professor Lucas teaches at UQ’s School of Biological Sciences and is working on the third edition of his Aquaculture textbook.

Media: John Lucas, j.lucas@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3346 7287;  communications@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 1120