This H. nudus zoea hatched six days ago to swim and feed in the plankton and go through several larval molts before metamorphosing into a benthic juvenile. Two compound eyes look out with a multi-faceted view of its surroundings, the mosaic of images from many ommatidia, or eye-lets. A distinctive dorsal spine projects from the top of its carapace, and a rostral spine is located anterior to the eyes. These spines may discourage predation. Note a thin-walled sac at the base of the dorsal spine, the zoea's beating heart. The segmented abdomen ends in forked telson.
At nine days old, this crab zoea is close to undergoing a molt. The process of molting, called ecdysis, is characteristic of a large clade of animals (including arthropods and nematodes) known as the Ecdysozoa. A hard exoskeleton covering the body of these animals must be shed to accommodate growth. During successive molts of zoea, the abdomen adds new segments, and pleopods bud from them. Setae develop on the telson and the maxillipeds, the thoracic appendages present in newly hatched zoea. Hemigrapsus passes through five zoeal stages before becoming a megalopa. This stage resembles the adult form with stalked eyes and five pairs of pereopods (walking legs). The next ecdysis will take the megalopa to the juvenile stage and a benthic existence for the rest of its life.