UOG researcher explores the biodiversity of crabs in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf  

UOG Curator of Crustacea Robert Lasley went on two research expeditions to conduct biodiversity surveys within the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.  

With support from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, Lasley joined a team of biologists and spent two weeks at sea collecting specimens such as crabs, mollusks, and worms from May 3 to May 27, 2023.  
During this expedition, Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) were deployed. ARMS are stacks of plates that mimic the sea floor. They are used to recruit local species over a set period of time to gauge and compare marine biodiversity among habitats, islands, and even ocean basins. Lasley and his colleagues will eventually deploy ARMS in Guam. 

During his time in Abu Dhabi from June 16 to June 29, Lasley explored the Persian Gulf with a team of scientists as part of a trip sponsored by Archireef, a Hong Kong-based company that builds 3D-printed reef structures to restore degraded coral reefs.  

The specimens gathered from these expeditions will be placed in the Guam Ecosystems Collaboratorium for Corals and Oceans (GECCO) Biorepository, a physical and cyber warehouse of records and images operated by the Guam NSF EPSCoR program. 

“I’m really interested in crab biodiversity and biogeography in general,” said Lasley. “The Indo-West Pacific – which includes Guam, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf – is this massive biogeographic region and some species are connected throughout it. Any specimens I collect anywhere are good to bring to our collection for comparative material because as we do research, we need to compare specimens from Guam but also specimens from elsewhere.”  

Between the two trips, Lasley collected more than 500 specimens, which include around 100 to 200 species of crabs.  

“We have already found a new record and, possibly, a new species from the Red Sea,” Lasley said. “We are bound to find more as I examine the specimens more thoroughly.”  

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