Neil Cumberlidge


Contact Information:

2009 Weston Hall
Phone (906) 227-2215


  • University of Hull, UK.  BSc (Hons) Zoology, 1973
  • University of Hull, UK.  PhD in Crustacean Ecophysiology, 1977
  • University of Durham, UK.  Postgraduate Certificate in Education (Biology), 1980

Research Interests:

1. The taxonomy and systematics of the African and Madagascan freshwater crabs. This involves the identification of specimens, the description of new taxa, the construction of taxonomic keys, and the derivation of classifications based on the results of cladistic analysis.

2.  The role of freshwater crabs in the transmission of human lung fluke disease (African paragonimiasis) in West Africa, and in the transmission of river blindness (onchocerciasis) to humans in East Africa. This research is aimed at (a) the identification of those species of freshwater crabs that serve as hosts or vectors of the parasites that cause these diseases, and (b) the development of control programs that can best limit the disease.

3.  Phylogenetic analyses of the freshwater crabs of the world. This research aims to resolve questions concerning (a) the marine sister groups of the freshwater crabs, and (b) the origin and age of the freshwater crabs.  It also focuses on the proper interpretation of the morphological and biogeographical evidence that best explains the present day patterns of distribution of the freshwater crabs.

4.  Studies in the ecological physiology of decapod crustaceans.  Subject animals are selected according to geographical location (UK: marine crabs and crayfish; Africa and Thailand: freshwater crabs; USA: crayfish). The research questions involve comparative studies of aspects of the cardiac, respiratory, and osmoregulatory physiology, and of the mechanisms of nitrogenous excretion of decapod crustaceans.

5.  Freshwater crab conservation. Led a group of specialists from Asia, Africa, and the Neotropics to compile data for the first-ever global conservation assessment of the freshwater crabs. Applied the IUCN Red-List criteria (2004) to assess the threat level of all known species of freshwater crabs. This research aims to identify which species of freshwater crab are threatened with extinction.

Student Research Projects  

Undergraduate students participate in research projects under my supervision. Recent examples include a study of osmoregulation in Thai freshwater crabs, a taxonomic revision of the freshwater crabs of Tanzania, descriptions of new species from Africa, Madagascar and Guyana, a study of the distribution patterns of the freshwater crabs of Madagascar, databasing freshwater crab biodiversity, molecular phylogenies of the freshwater crabs of West Africa and Madagascar, the taxonomy of the freshwater crabs of Lake Tanganyika, a morphometric and cladistic analysis of the freshwater crabs of the Ruwenzori mountains in Uganda, the distribution and ecology of crayfish in Northern Michigan. Other studies have included a molecular phylogeny of sturgeon, studies on the characterization of the pre-orbital gland secretion of African elephants, and the behavior of angelfish on a coral reef in Belize.


  • BI 104 Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • BI 201 Human Anatomy
  • BI 202 Human Physiology
  • BI 210 Principles of Ecology
  • BI 298 Directed Studies in Biology
  • BI 315 Evolution
  • BI 327 Animal Physiology
  • BI 391 Laboratory Experience in Biology
  • BI 427 (G) Ecological Animal Physiology
  • BI 498 (G) Directed Studies in Biology
  • BI 589 (G) Research in Biology
  • BI 520 (G) Systematics
  • BI 599 (G) Thesis in Biology

(G = graduate credit toward the MS degree can be earned in this course)

Selected Publications:

  • Collen, B., Ram, M., Dewhurst, N., Clausnitzer, V., Kalkman, V., Cumberlidge, N. and Baillie, J.E.M. 2008. Broadening the coverage of biodiversity assessments. In: J.-C. Vié, C. Hilton-Taylor and S.N. Stuart (eds). The 2008 Review of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN Gland, Switzerland. Download pdf
  • Cumberlidge, N., 2008. Insular species of Afrotropical freshwater crabs (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura: Potamonautidae and Potamidae) with special reference to Madagascar and the Seychelles. Contributions to Zoology, 77(2): 71-81. Download pdf
  • Cumberlidge, N. & S. R. Daniels, 2008.  A conservation assessment of the freshwater crabs of southern Africa (Brachyura: Potamonautidae).  African Journal of Ecology 46(1): 74–79.
  • Cumberlidge, N., R. v. Sternberg, S. R. Daniels, 2008.  A revision of the higher taxonomy of the Afrotropical freshwater crabs (Decapoda: Brachyura) with a discussion of their biogeography.  Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 93 (2): 399-413.  Download pdf
  • Yeo, D. C. J., P. K. L. Ng, N. Cumberlidge, C. Magalhaes, S. R. Daniels & M. Campos, 2008.  A global assessment of freshwater crab diversity (Crustacea: Decapoda: Brachyura).  In: Freshwater Animal Diversity Assessment (eds. Balian, E. V., Lévequè, C., Segers, H., Martens, M.).  Hydrobiologia595: 275-286.  Download pdf
  • Daniels, S. R., N. Cumberlidge, M. Pérez-Losada, S. A. E. Marijnissenand K. A. Crandall., 2006.  Evolution of Afrotropical freshwater crab lineages obscured by morphological convergence.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 40: 225-235. 
  • Reed, S.K., and N. Cumberlidge, 2006. Taxonomy and biogeography of the freshwater crabs of Tanzania, East Africa (Brachyura: Potamoidea: Potamonautidae, Platythelphusidae, Deckeniidae).   Zootaxa, 1262, 1-139.Monograph
  • Cumberlidge, N.  2006.  Inventaire rapide des crustacés décapodes de la préfecture de Boké en Guinée.  Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) Bulletin of Biological Assessment / Bulletin RAP d’Evaluation Rapide 41, Chapter 3, pp 38-46, Conservation International, Washington DC.Book Chapter
  • Cumberlidge, N. and R. v. Sternberg.  2003.  The freshwater crabs of Madagascar.  Chapter in book “Madagascan Natural History”.  University of Chicago Press. Eds. Steven Goodman and Jon Benstead, 612-617. Book Chapter
  • Cumberlidge, N. and R. v. Sternberg.  2002.  A taxonomic revision of the freshwater crabs of Madagascar (Decapoda: Potamoidea: Potamonautidae). Zoosystema, 24(1): 41-79.  Download pdf
  • Cumberlidge, N.  1999.  The freshwater crabs of West Africa.  Family Potamonautidae.  Faune et Flore Tropicales 35, Institut de recherche pour le développement IRD (ex-ORSTOM), Paris, 1-382. Monograph
  • Sternberg, R. v., Cumberlidge, N. and G. Rodriguez.  1999.  On the marine sister groups of the freshwater crabs (Crustacea: Decapoda). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, 37: 19-38. Download pdf
Neil portrait