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Concept: Arthropod


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


Brine shrimp are primitive crustacean arthropodal model organisms, second to daphnia, which can survive in high-salinity environments. Their oviposited cysts, cuticle-covered diapausing eggs, are highly resistant to dryness. To elucidate specialties of brine shrimp, this study characterized glycosphingolipids, which are signal transduction-associated material. A group of novel and complex fucosyl glycosphingolipids were separated and identified from cysts of the brine shrimp Artemia franciscana by repeated lipid extraction, alkaline methanolysis, acid treatment, successive column chromatography, and post-source decay measurements by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry. Structures of the glycosphingolipids were elucidated by conventional structural characterization and mass spectrometry, and the compounds were identified as GlcNAcβ1-3GalNAcβ1-4(GlcNAcα1-2Fucα1-3)GlcNAcβ1-3Manβ1-4Glcβ1-Cer, GalNAcβ1-4(Fucα1-3)GlcNAcβ1-3GalNAcβ1-4(GlcNAcα1-2Fucα1-3)GlcNAcβ1-3Manβ1-4Glcβ1-Cer, and GalNAcβ1-4(GlcNAcα1-2Fucα1-3)GlcNAcβ1-3GalNAcβ1-4(GlcNAcα1-2Fucα1-3)GlcNAcβ1-3Manβ1-4Glcβ1-Cer. These compounds also contained a branching, non-arthro-series disaccharide with an α-GlcNAc terminus, similar to that found in a previously reported ceramide hexasaccharide (III(3)(GlcNAcα2Fucα)-At4Cer). The glycans within these complex GSLs are longer than reported glycans of the animal kingdom containing α-GlcNAc terminus. These complex GSLs as well as the longest GSL with ten sugar residues, ceramide decasaccharide (CDeS), contain the fucosylated LacdiNAc sequence reported to associate with parasitism/immunosuppression and the α-GlcNAc terminus reported to show a certain antibacterial effect in other reports. CDeS, the longest GSL of this species, was found in the highest amount, which indicates that CDeS may be functionally important.

Concepts: Mass spectrometry, Arthropod, Crustacean, Brine shrimp, Branchiopoda, Time-of-flight, Artemia salina, Fairy shrimp


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


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


Clam shrimps are freshwater branchiopod crustaceans which often present complicated breeding systems including asexual reproduction (parthenogenesis) and mixed mating systems (in androdioecious species both selfing and outcrossing occurs due to the co-presence of hermaphrodites and males). Reproductive patterns of Spinicaudata, which contains most clam shrimp species, have received much attention. Another group of clam shrimps, Laevicaudata, which holds a key position in branchiopod phylogeny, has practically not been studied. As a part of the mating process, males clasp to the carapace margin of the females with a pair (or two pairs) of anterior trunk limbs modified as claspers. Previous studies have shown that clasper morphology is important in a phylogenetic context, and that some parts of the claspers in Spinicaudata and Laevicaudata may have undergone a remarkable parallel evolution. Here we have used video microscopy to study aspects of the mating behaviour, egg extrusion, and fertilization in Lynceus brachyurus (Laevicaudata). It is shown that fertilization is likely to be external and that the peculiar tri-lobed lateral lamellae of female’s hind body assist in guiding the egg mass to the exopodal egg carriers where they are collected by their distal setation. The functional morphology of the male claspers was studied in detail by close-up video recordings. The movable “finger” of the clasper bends around the female’s carapace edge and serves to hold the female during mating. The larger palp grasps around the female carapace margin in a way very similar to the movable “finger”, possibly indirectly providing sensory input on the “finger” position. A brief comparative study of the claspers of a spinicaudatan clam shrimp showed both similarities and differences to the laevicaudatan claspers. The presence of two pairs of claspers in Spinicaudata seems to give males a better hold of the female which may play a role during extended mate guarding.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Arthropod, Crustacean, Sex, Branchiopoda, Clam shrimp


There is wide interest in understanding how genetic diversity is generated and maintained in parthenogenetic lineages, as it will help clarify the debate of the evolution and maintenance of sexual reproduction. There are three mechanisms that can be responsible for the generation of genetic diversity of parthenogenetic lineages: contagious parthenogenesis, repeated hybridization and microorganism infections (e.g. Wolbachia). Brine shrimps of the genus Artemia (Crustacea, Branchiopoda, Anostraca) are a good model system to investigate evolutionary transitions between reproductive systems as they include sexual species and lineages of obligate parthenogenetic populations of different ploidy level, which often co-occur. Diploid parthenogenetic lineages produce occasional fully functional rare males, interspecific hybridization is known to occur, but the mechanisms of origin of asexual lineages are not completely understood. Here we sequenced and analysed fragments of one mitochondrial and two nuclear genes from an extensive set of populations of diploid parthenogenetic Artemia and sexual species from Central and East Asia to investigate the evolutionary origin of diploid parthenogenetic Artemia, and geographic origin of the parental taxa. Our results indicate that there are at least two, possibly three independent and recent maternal origins of parthenogenetic lineages, related to A. urmiana and Artemia sp. from Kazakhstan, but that the nuclear genes are very closely related in all the sexual species and parthenogegetic lineages except for A. sinica, who presumable took no part on the origin of diploid parthenogenetic strains. Our data cannot rule out either hybridization between any of the very closely related Asiatic sexual species or rare events of contagious parthenogenesis via rare males as the contributing mechanisms to the generation of genetic diversity in diploid parthenogenetic Artemia lineages.

Concepts: Reproduction, Evolution, Arthropod, Crustacean, Asexual reproduction, Branchiopoda, Parthenogenesis, Fairy shrimp


Within arthropods, several crustacean groups are unique in their early development due to their stereotyped cell division patterns and cell lineages. However, it is still unclear whether these cell division patterns are homologous between the various crustacean groups and whether they could indicate the ground pattern of Tetraconata (Crustacea and Hexapoda). In this study we describe the early development of the raptorial water flea Bythotrephes longimanus as a representative of the Cladocera within branchiopods.

Concepts: Insect, Arthropod, Crustacean, Branchiopoda, Cladocera, Daphnia, Antenna, Phyllopoda


The American brine shrimp Artemia franciscana is invasive in the Mediterranean region where it has displaced native species (the sexual A. salina, and the clonal A. parthenogenetica) from many salt pond complexes. Artemia populations are parasitized by numerous avian cestodes whose effects have been studied in native species. We present a study from the Ebro Delta salterns (NE Spain), in a salt pond where both A. franciscana and native A. salina populations coexist, providing a unique opportunity to compare the parasite loads of the two sexual species in syntopy. The native species had consistently higher infection parameters, largely because the dominant cestode in A. salina adults and juveniles (Flamingolepis liguloides) was much rarer in A. franciscana. The most abundant cestodes in the alien species were Eurycestus avoceti (in adults) and Flamingolepis flamingo (in juveniles). The abundance of E. avoceti and F. liguloides was higher in the A. franciscana population syntopic with A. salina than in a population sampled at the same time in another pond where the native brine shrimp was absent, possibly because the native shrimp provides a better reservoir for parasite circulation. Infection by cestodes caused red colouration in adult and juvenile A. salina, and also led to castration in a high proportion of adult females. Both these effects were significantly stronger in the native host than in A. franciscana with the same parasite loads. However, for the first time, significant castration effects (for E. avoceti and F. liguloides) and colour change (for six cestode species) were observed in infected A. franciscana. Avian cestodes are likely to help A. franciscana outcompete native species. At the same time, they are likely to reduce the production of A. franciscana cysts in areas where they are harvested commercially.

Concepts: Arthropod, Crustacean, Brine shrimp, Transmission and infection of H5N1, Cestoda


Tardigrade research in Japan dates back over 100 years, and to date, 167 species of this ecdysozoan phylum have been reported from the country. Of these species, the Macrobiotus hufelandi complex has been represented only by the nominal taxon of this group, Macrobiotus hufelandi. In this article, a new species of the hufelandi group from Japan, Macrobiotus shonaicus sp. nov., is described using integrative taxonomy. In addition to the detailed morphological and morphometric data, obtained using phase contrast light microscopy (PCM) and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), we provide DNA sequences of four molecular markers (both nuclear and mitochondrial). The new species belongs to the persimilis subgroup and is most similar to M. anemone from USA, M. naskreckii from Mozambique, and M. patagonicus from Argentina, but it can be easily distinguished from these species by the presence of thin flexible filaments on terminal discs of the egg process. By the latter character, the new species is most similar to M. paulinae and M. polypiformis, but it can be easily distinguished from them by having a solid egg surface between egg processes (i.e., without pores or reticulum). A phylogenetic analysis of available DNA sequences of the COI marker for the hufelandi group revealed that the new species clusters with the two other species that exhibit filaments on egg process discs (M. paulinae and M. polypiformis) and with two species that have entire egg processes modified into filaments (M. kristenseni and M. scoticus). All five species form a clade distinct from all other sequenced species of the hufelandi group with typical mushroom- or inverted goblet-shaped egg processes, which may suggest that the ancestor of the five species with atypical egg processes had a mutation allowing derivations from the mushroom or inverted chalice-like shape of egg processes.

Concepts: DNA, Electron, Biology, Species, Arthropod, Cladistics, Microscopy, Scanning electron microscope