The influence of starvation on larval development of the spider crab H. araneus (L.) was studied in laboratory experiments. No larval stage suffering from continual lack of food had sufficient energy reserves to reach the next instar. Maximal survival times were observed at four different constant temperatures (2°, 6°, 12° and 18°C). In general, starvation resistance decreased as temperatures increased: from 72 to 12 days in the zoea-1, from 48 to 18 days in the zoea-2, and from 48 to 15 days in the megalopa stage. The conclusion, based on own observations and on literature data, is that initial feeding is of paramount importance in the early development of planktotrophic decapod larvae. Taking into account hormonal and other developmental processes during the first moult cycle, a general hypothesis is proposed to explain the key role of first food uptake as well as the response pattern of the zoea-1 stage to differential starvation periods.