In the Crustacea section we mainly study decapods. These are animals that the non-specialist will easily classify as crustaceans.
Decapod crustaceans are highly diverse and about 14,000 species are recognised. They are adapted to a wide range of marine, freshwater and terrestrial environments having been collected in the shallow waters of the surf zone to the greatest depths of the oceans, from mountain streams to long lowland rivers and through mangroves into the coastal plains of the tropics. But this amazing biodiversity has only partly been described, consequently the scientists of the Crustacea section concentrate on decapod taxonomy: the study, description and naming of animals. These animals are then grouped into a hierarchical series by emphasizing their evolutionary interrelationships (systematics). Such meticulous work forms an indispensable foundation in the study of biodiversity. As a consequence the distribution of species in time and space can be recorded and, ecological and ecofaunistic research understood.
The Crustacea Section is one of the oldest in the Senckenberg Research Institute. Its founding head was Eduard Rüppell after he came back from Arabia in 1828. Adolf Reuss followed Rüppell in 1832 as head of section. In that year he had completed a hand written catalogue of the collection. After Rüppell stopped working on Crustacea in about 1834, the section was administered until 1878 by a number of scientists who were heads of other Sections (e. g. the botanist J. B. G. Fresenius). It was only after the section was taken over by Ferdinand Richters [*1849 – + 1914] on May 26, 1878 that new a period of scientific work in carcinology began. Also within this period another handwritten catalogue was completed (1880), and a detailed card-catalogue which is a great help for all historical reserch in the collection. In 1912 Alexander Sendler [*1878 – +1914] joined the staff, and after F. Richters died on July 3, 1914 he became head of the section. Only 3 months after that he was killed in action in World War I [October 10, 1914, near St. Mihiel south of Verdun]. After his death the section was again without a head and was adminstered by the curators of invertebrate zoology (F. Haas, A. Zilch). It was 1946 before a carcinologist was again appointed head of the section when Richard Bott [*1902 – + 1974] came to the Museum after being interned as a prisoner after World War II. He worked nearly exclusively on freshwater crayfish and freshwater crabs. During this time he brought together a large collection with many types. Many publications and monographs were written by him. After his death on January 27, 1974 Michael Türkay was appointed head of the section, at first as an assistant, and since 1976 as full curator. With the large expansion in German marine research much deep-sea material came to the collections and it is since this time that the scientific emphasis has changed towards marine decapods (for more exact subjects see below). More specific data concerning the history of the Crustacea Section can be found in the papers of M. Türkay in “Natur und Museum” (May 1981, pp. 151-157) and Senckenberg Buch 68 (1992).