Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Arthropod


Although humans and arthropods have been living and evolving together for all of our history, we know very little about the arthropods we share our homes with apart from major pest groups. Here we surveyed, for the first time, the complete arthropod fauna of the indoor biome in 50 houses (located in and around Raleigh, North Carolina, USA). We discovered high diversity, with a conservative estimate range of 32-211 morphospecies, and 24-128 distinct arthropod families per house. The majority of this indoor diversity (73%) was made up of true flies (Diptera), spiders (Araneae), beetles (Coleoptera), and wasps and kin (Hymenoptera, especially ants: Formicidae). Much of the arthropod diversity within houses did not consist of synanthropic species, but instead included arthropods that were filtered from the surrounding landscape. As such, common pest species were found less frequently than benign species. Some of the most frequently found arthropods in houses, such as gall midges (Cecidomyiidae) and book lice (Liposcelididae), are unfamiliar to the general public despite their ubiquity. These findings present a new understanding of the diversity, prevalence, and distribution of the arthropods in our daily lives. Considering their impact as household pests, disease vectors, generators of allergens, and facilitators of the indoor microbiome, advancing our knowledge of the ecology and evolution of arthropods in homes has major economic and human health implications.

Concepts: Evolution, Nematocera, Insect, Arthropod, Flies, Ant, Spider, Pterygota


Spiders have been suspected to be one of the most important groups of natural enemies of insects worldwide. To document the impact of the global spider community as insect predators, we present estimates of the biomass of annually killed insect prey. Our estimates assessed with two different methods suggest that the annual prey kill of the global spider community is in the range of 400-800 million metric tons (fresh weight), with insects and collembolans composing >90% of the captured prey. This equals approximately 1‰ of the global terrestrial net primary production. Spiders associated with forests and grasslands account for >95% of the annual prey kill of the global spider community, whereas spiders in other habitats are rather insignificant contributors over a full year. The spider communities associated with annual crops contribute less than 2% to the global annual prey kill. This, however, can be partly explained by the fact that annual crop fields are “disturbed habitats” with a low buildup of spider biomass and that agrobiont spiders often only kill prey over short time periods in a year. Our estimates are supported by the published results of exclusion experiments, showing that the number of herbivorous/detritivorous insects and collembolans increased significantly after spider removal from experimental plots. The presented estimates of the global annual prey kill and the relative contribution of spider predation in different biomes improve the general understanding of spider ecology and provide a first assessment of the global impact of this very important predator group.

Concepts: Insect, Arthropod, Predation, Ecology, Lion, Biological pest control, Aposematism, Spider


Long-term survival has been one of the most studied of the extraordinary physiological characteristics of cryptobiosis in micrometazoans such as nematodes, tardigrades and rotifers. In the available studies of long-term survival of micrometazoans, instances of survival have been the primary observation, and recovery conditions of animals or subsequent reproduction are generally not reported. We therefore documented recovery conditions and reproduction immediately following revival of tardigrades retrieved from a frozen moss sample collected in Antarctica in 1983 and stored at -20°C for 30.5 years. We recorded recovery of two individuals and development of a separate egg of the Antarctic tardigrade, Acutuncus antarcticus, providing the longest records of survival for tardigrades as animals or eggs. One of the two resuscitated individuals and the hatchling successfully reproduced repeatedly after their recovery from long-term cryptobiosis. This considerable extension of the known length of long-term survival of tardigrades recorded in our study is interpreted as being associated with the minimum oxidative damage likely to have resulted from storage under stable frozen conditions. The long recovery times of the revived tardigrades observed is suggestive of the requirement for repair of damage accrued over 30 years of cryptobiosis. Further more detailed studies will improve understanding of mechanisms and conditions underlying the long-term survival of cryptobiotic organisms.

Concepts: Arthropod, Cultural studies, Tardigrade, Trehalose, Antarctica, Cryptobiosis, Antarctic Circle, Antarctic


Spiders are an important animal group, with a long history. Details of their origins remain limited, with little knowledge of their stem group, and no insights into the sequence of character acquisition during spider evolution. We describe a new fossil arachnid,Idmonarachne brasierigen. et sp. nov. from the Late Carboniferous (Stephanian,ca305-299 Ma) of Montceau-les-Mines, France. It is three-dimensionally preserved within a siderite concretion, allowing both laboratory- and synchrotron-based phase-contrast computed tomography reconstruction. The latter is a first for siderite-hosted fossils and has allowed us to investigate fine anatomical details. Although distinctly spider-like in habitus, this remarkable fossil lacks a key diagnostic character of Araneae: spinnerets on the underside of the opisthosoma. It also lacks a flagelliform telson found in the recently recognized, spider-related, Devonian-Permian Uraraneida. Cladistic analysis resolves our new fossil as sister group to the spiders: the spider stem-group comprises the uraraneids andI. brasieri While we are unable to demonstrate the presence of spigots in this fossil, the recovered phylogeny suggests the earliest character to evolve on the spider stem-group is the secretion of silk. This would have been followed by the loss of a flagelliform telson, and then the ability to spin silk using spinnerets. This last innovation defines the true spiders, significantly post-dates the origins of silk, and may be a key to the group’s success. The Montceau-les-Mines locality has previously yielded a mesothele spider (with spinnerets). Evidently, Late Palaeozoic spiders lived alongside Palaeozoic arachnid grades which approached the spider condition, but did not express the full suite of crown-group autapomorphies.

Concepts: Arthropod, Phylogenetics, Clade, Phylum, Arachnid, Spider, Chelicerata, Tarantula


The folded intersegmental membrane is a structure that interconnects two adjacent abdominal segments; this structure is distributed in the segments of the honey bee abdomen. The morphology of the folded intersegmental membrane has already been documented. However, the ultrastructure of the intersegmental membrane and its assistive role in the telescopic movements of the honey bee abdomen are poorly understood. To explore the morphology and ultrastructure of the folded intersegmental membrane in the honey bee abdomen, frozen sections were analyzed under a scanning electron microscope. The intersegmental membrane between two adjacent terga has a Z-S configuration that greatly influences the daily physical activities of the honey bee abdomen. The dorsal intersegmental membrane is 2 times thicker than the ventral one, leading to asymmetric abdominal motion. Honey bee abdominal movements were recorded using a high-speed camera and through phase-contrast computed tomography. These movements conformed to the structural features of the folded intersegmental membrane.

Concepts: Electron, Insect, Arthropod, Honey bee, Abdomen, Scanning electron microscope, Bee, Apidae


Carbonated hydroxyapatite is the mineral found in vertebrate bones and teeth, whereas invertebrates utilize calcium carbonate in their mineralized organs. In particular, stable amorphous calcium carbonate is found in many crustaceans. Here we report on an unusual, crystalline enamel-like apatite layer found in the mandibles of the arthropod Cherax quadricarinatus (freshwater crayfish). Despite their very different thermodynamic stabilities, amorphous calcium carbonate, amorphous calcium phosphate, calcite and fluorapatite coexist in well-defined functional layers in close proximity within the mandible. The softer amorphous minerals are found primarily in the bulk of the mandible whereas apatite, the harder and less soluble mineral, forms a wear-resistant, enamel-like coating of the molar tooth. Our findings suggest a unique case of convergent evolution, where similar functional challenges of mastication led to independent developments of structurally and mechanically similar, apatite-based layers in the teeth of genetically remote phyla: vertebrates and crustaceans.

Concepts: Arthropod, Calcium, Crustacean, Mineral, Calcium carbonate, Teeth, Crayfish, Aragonite


Tardigrades are microscopic aquatic animals with remarkable abilities to withstand harsh physical conditions such as dehydration or exposure to harmful highly energetic radiation. The mechanisms responsible for such robustness are presently little known, but protection against oxidative stresses is thought to play a role. Despite the fact that many tardigrade species are variously pigmented, scarce information is available about this characteristic. By applying Raman micro-spectroscopy on living specimens, pigments in the tardigrade Echiniscus blumi are identified as carotenoids, and their distribution within the animal body is visualized. The dietary origin of these pigments is demonstrated, as well as their presence in the eggs and in eye-spots of these animals, together with their absence in the outer layer of the animal (i.e., cuticle and epidermis). Using in-vivo semi-quantitative Raman micro-spectroscopy, a decrease in carotenoid content is detected after inducing oxidative stress, demonstrating that this approach can be used for studying the role of carotenoids in oxidative stress-related processes in tardigrades. This approach could be thus used in further investigations to test several hypotheses concerning the function of these carotenoids in tardigrades as photo-protective pigments against ionizing radiations or as antioxidants defending these organisms against the oxidative stress occurring during desiccation processes.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Antioxidant, Arthropod, Oxidative stress, In vivo, Carotenoid, Lutein, Tardigrade


Biogenic amines, particularly serotonin, are recognised to play an important role in controlling the aggression of invertebrates, whereas the effect of neurohormones is still underexplored. The crustacean Hyperglycemic Hormone (cHH) is a multifunctional member of the eyestalk neuropeptide family. We expect that this neuropeptide influences aggression either directly, by controlling its expression, or indirectly, by mobilizing the energetic stores needed for the increased activity of an animal. Our study aims at testing such an influence and the possible reversion of hierarchies in the red swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, as a model organism. Three types of pairs of similarly sized males were formed: (1) ‘control pairs’ (CP, n = 8): both individuals were injected with a phosphate saline solution (PBS); (2) ‘reinforced pairs’ (RP, n = 9): the alpha alone was injected with native cHH, and the beta with PBS; (3) ‘inverted pairs’ (IP, n = 9): the opposite of (2). We found that, independently of the crayfish’s prior social experience, cHH injections induced (i) the expression of dominance behaviour, (ii) higher glycemic levels, and (iii) lower time spent motionless. In CP and RP, fight intensity decreased with the establishment of dominance. On the contrary, in IP, betas became increasingly likely to initiate and escalate fights and, consequently, increased their dominance till a temporary reversal of the hierarchy. Our results demonstrate, for the first time, that, similarly to serotonin, cHH enhances individual aggression, up to reverse, although transitorily, the hierarchical rank. New research perspectives are thus opened in our intriguing effort of understanding the role of cHH in the modulation of agonistic behaviour in crustaceans.

Concepts: Arthropod, Hierarchy, Crustacean, Procambarus clarkii, Crayfish, Decapoda, Cambaridae, Procambarus


Vestimentiferan tubeworms are marine invertebrates that inhabit chemosynthetic environments, and although recent molecular phylogenetic analyses have suggested that vestimentiferan tubeworms are derived from polychaete annelids, they show some morphological features that are different from other polychaetes. For example, vestimentiferans lack a digestive tract and have less body segments and comparative neuroanatomy can provide essential insight into the vestimentiferan body plan and its evolution. In the present study, we investigated the adult nervous system in the vestimentiferan Lamellibrachia satsuma using antibodies against synapsin, serotonin, FMRMamide and acetylated α-tubulin. We also examined the expressions of neural marker genes, elav and synaptotagmin to reveal the distribution of neuronal cell bodies. Brain anatomy shows simple organization in Lamellibrachia compared to other polychaetes. This simplification is probably due to the loss of the digestive tract, passing through the body between the brain and the subesophageal ganglion. In contrast, the ventral nerve cord shows a repeated organizational structure as in the other polychaetes, despite the absence of the multiple segmentation of the trunk. These results suggest that the brain anatomy is variable depending on the function and the condition of surrounding tissues, and that the formation of the rope ladder-like nervous system of the ventral nerve cord is independent from segmentation in polychaetes.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Arthropod, Human brain, Axon, Nerve, Siboglinidae


Diapause is a common feature in several arthropod species that are subject to unfavorable growing seasons. The range of environmental cues that trigger the onset and termination of diapause, in addition to associated hormonal, biochemical, and molecular changes, have been studied extensively in recent years; however, such information is only available for a few insect species. Diapause and cold hardening usually occur together in overwintering arthropods, and can be characterized by recording changes to the wealth of molecules present in the tissue, hemolymph, or whole body of organisms. Recent technological advances, such as high throughput screening and quantification of metabolites via chromatographic analyses, are able to identify such molecules. In the present work, we examined the survival ability of diapausing and non-diapausing females of the two-spotted spider mite, Tetranychus urticae, in the presence (0 or 5°C) or absence of cold acclimation. Furthermore, we examined the metabolic fingerprints of these specimens via gas chromatography-mass spectrophotometry (GC-MS). Partial Least Square Discriminant Analysis (PLS-DA) of metabolites revealed that major metabolic variations were related to diapause, indicating in a clear cut-off between diapausing and non-diapausing females, regardless of acclimation state. Signs of metabolic depression were evident in diapausing females, with most amino acids and TCA cycle intermediates being significantly reduced. Out of the 40 accurately quantified metabolites, seven metabolites remained elevated or were accumulated in diapausing mites, i.e. cadaverine, gluconolactone, glucose, inositol, maltose, mannitol and sorbitol. The capacity to accumulate winter polyols during cold-acclimation was restricted to diapausing females. We conclude that the induction of increased cold hardiness in this species is associated with the diapause syndrome, rather than being a direct effect of low temperature. Our results provide novel information about biochemical events related to the cold hardening process in the two-spotted spider mite.

Concepts: Protein, Metabolism, Insect, Arthropod, Tetranychus urticae, Spider mite, Tetranychus, Acariformes