© 2014 IOP Publishing Ltd. Tuning surface and material properties to inhibit or prevent settlement and attachment of microorganisms is of interest for applications such as antifouling technologies. Here, optimization of nano- and microscale structures on immersed surfaces can be utilized to improve cell removal while reducing adhesion strength and the likelihood of initial cellular attachment. Engineered surfaces capable of controlling cellular behaviour under natural conditions are challenging to design due to the diversity of attaching cell types in environments such as marine waters, where many variations in cell shape, size and adhesion strategy exist. Nevertheless, understanding interactions between a cell and a potential substrate for adhesion, including topographically driven settlement cues, offers a route to designing surfaces capable of controlling cell settlement. Biomimetic design of artificial surfaces, based upon microscale features from natural surfaces, can be utilized as model surfaces to understand cell-surface interactions. The microscale surface features of the carapace from the crustacean Cancer pagurus has been previously found to influence the rate of attachment of particular organisms when compared to smooth controls. However, the nature of microscale topographic features from C. pagurus have not been examined in sufficient detail to allow design of biomimetic surfaces. In this work, the spatial distribution, chemical composition, size and shape descriptors of microscale surface features from C. pagurus are characterized in detail for the first time. Additionally, the in fluence of topography from C. pagurus on the settlement of marine diatoms is examined under field conditions.