Try as scientists might, many families of deep-sea shrimp are also "fraught with taxonomic problems" because rare and unusual larval stages have been mistakenly described as new genera or species.
In this latest study, Bracken-Grissom and Varela matched 14 larval and juvenile species to their adult counterparts using DNA barcoding, a technique that involves comparing short segments of DNA extracted from known and unknown specimens.
Before this study, scientists knew next to nothing about the larval stages of 10 of the 14 deep-sea species described.
What they revealed was a dazzling array of larval and juvenile forms of different deep-sea shrimp species, adding new pieces to the puzzle of their complex life cycles – which, in some cases, are thought to include nine or more larval stages.
Either way, matching infant forms to their fully-fledged adult mates is a crucial link in understanding where deep-sea shrimp and other crustaceans live at different stages of life and their place in the ocean's food web, the researchers say
But the researchers suspect these little-known shrimp species probably have multiple larval stages – which can be influenced by seawater temperature, salinity and the food they eat – so more work and specimens will be needed to fully describe the secret life histories of these underrated deep-sea dwellers.