1. Larvae of the bromeliad crab, Metopaulias depressus Rathbun, were reared in the laboratory, and changes in dry weight (W), ash-free W (AFW), carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, protein, lipid, carbohydrates and respiration rate were measured during development from hatching to metamorphosis. 2. Development was successful in rain-water from bromeliads (pH < 5 6), but not in river water from the same region (pH 8). It is abbreviated, with two non-feeding zoeal stages (2.5-3.5 days each) and a feeding megalopa (8.5-10 days). Development to metamorphosis can also be completed in the absence of food (facultative lecithotrophy). 3. Dry weight and other absolute biomass values per individual vary significantly between different hatches, whereas changes in the relative (% of W or AFW) composition follow quite invariable patterns: ash increases from hatching through the first part of megalopa development, organic biomass decreases concurrently. 4. Elemental and biochemical data show that lecithotrophy of the zoeal stages as well as continued endotrophic development in the megalopa depend chiefly on degradation of lipid reserves and less on protein. No significant growth was observed in organic constituents when food was available, but without food the megalopa reached metamorphosis with only half the lipid and less than two thirds the protein of fed siblings. 5. The relationship between C and lipid is similar in M. depressus larvae as in planktotrophic marine crab larvae, whereas that between N and protein differs; it indicates the presence of unusually large quantities of unidentified non-protein N. 6. Exuvial losses of late premoult biomass or energy are very low in the zoeal stages (2 and 3%), but increase in the megalopa (16% in W, 10% in C, 7-8% in N, H and energy). 7. Respiration rate per individual increases gradually during larval development (0.6-0.8 mug O2/hr). Starved megalopa larvae reveal lower individual but higher W- specific metabolism than fed larvae. 8. Bioenergetic traits of abbreviated larval development are discussed in relation to those known from regular (planktotrophic marine) development of brachyuran crabs. M. depressus is highly adapted to life and development in a physically extreme terrestrial environment.