Re ECF Project: 2015-09

Project Title: Marine invertebrate larvae in Hong Kong waters: Development of sampling and photo identification guides for larval decapods and stomatopods

Applicant: Dr CHAN Kit Yu Karen, Division of Life Science, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Total Approved Grant: $499,850

Duration: 1/4/2016 to 30/9/2017

Project Status/Remarks: Completed

Many marine organisms have complex life histories and rely on their planktonic larval stages for dispersal. Abundances and conditions of these larval stages could have significant implications for population dynamics of a species. There are few systematic studies on the zooplankton community in Hong Kong waters. Existing work often focuses on numerically dominant species, despite marine invertebrate larvae, especially those of decapods and stomatopods, have significant commercially and ecological value. To fill in this knowledge gap, the project aims to –

(a). develop a best-practice guide for sampling zooplankton, especially for marine invertebrate larvae;
(b). develop a web-based photo-identification guide for commercially important crustacean larvae;
(c). develop a database for the use of DNA barcoding technique to identify commercially important crustacean larvae; and
(d). describe the seasonal dynamics (abundance and distribution) of marine invertebrate larvae in Port Shelter.

Summary of the Findings/Outcomes:
Variations of larval decapods and stomatopods diversity in space and time were investigated through monthly sampling and subsequent species morphological- and molecular-based identifications. Overall, the research team discovered a wealth of zooplankton diversity of over 90 taxonomic groups in the coastal eastern waters. These plankton groups comprise not only the larvae of commercially important species, e.g., swimming crabs (of the family Portunidae), silver shrimps (Acetes sp.), and spiny lobsters (family Palinuridae), but also many varied and interesting planktonic groups, e.g. phoronids worms and brachiopods. This record is one of the longest and most species-comprehensive for the region. Given that the morphology of larval individuals are often very different compared to their full-grown adult form, the research team developed a web-based photolibrary ( for the public to assist in their identification of local zooplankton. Based on their field tests of plankton pump and Bongo net, the research team also provides a sampling guide for marine invertebrate larvae in Hong Kong waters. In addition, they pilot tested the use of and started developing a DNA barcoding library for larval crabs. Their molecular work also corroborates the key findings of their morphological identification that Hong Kong waters is extremely diverse. This project provides the baseline and tools for long-term, more in-depth surveys to better understand the dynamics of the marine plankton community.