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Concept: Branchiopoda


BACKGROUND: Sexual system is a key factor affecting the genetic diversity, population structure, genome structure and the evolutionary potential of species. The sexual system androdioecy – where males and hermaphrodites coexist in populations – is extremely rare, yet is found in three crustacean groups, barnacles, a genus of clam shrimps Eulimnadia, and in the order Notostraca, the tadpole shrimps. In the ancient crustacean order Notostraca, high morphological conservatism contrasts with a wide diversity of sexual systems, including androdioecy. An understanding of the evolution of sexual systems in this group has been hampered by poor phylogenetic resolution and confounded by the widespread occurrence of cryptic species. Here we use a multigene supermatrix for 30 taxa to produce a comprehensive phylogenetic reconstruction of Notostraca. Based on this phylogenetic reconstruction we use character mapping techniques to investigate the evolution of sexual systems. We also tested the hypothesis that reproductive assurance has driven the evolution of androdioecy in Notostraca. RESULTS: Character mapping analysis showed that sexual system is an extremely flexible trait within Notostraca, with repeated shifts between gonochorism and androdioecy, the latter having evolved a minimum of five times. In agreement with the reproductive assurance hypothesis androdioecious notostracans are found at significantly higher latitudes than gonochoric ones indicating that post glacial re-colonisation may have selected for the higher colonisation ability conferred by androdioecy. CONCLUSIONS: In contrast to their conserved morphology, sexual system in Notostraca is highly labile and the rare reproductive mode androdioecy has evolved repeatedly within the order. Furthermore, we conclude that this lability of sexual system has been maintained for at least 250 million years and may have contributed to the long term evolutionary persistence of Notostraca. Our results further our understanding of the evolution of androdioecy and indicate that reproductive assurance is a recurrent theme involved in the evolution of this sexual system.

Concepts: Evolution, Biology, Organism, Species, Crustacean, Hermaphrodite, Branchiopoda, Notostraca


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


BACKGROUND: The gene doublesex (dsx) is known as a key factor regulating genetic sex determination in many organisms. We previously identified two dsx genes (DapmaDsx1 and DapmaDsx2) from a freshwater branchiopod crustacean, Daphnia magna, which are expressed in males but not in females. D. magna produces males by parthenogenesis in response to environmental cues (environmental sex determination) and we showed that DapmaDsx1 expression during embryonic stages is responsible for the male trait development. The D. magna dsx genes are thought to have arisen by a cladoceran-specific duplication; therefore, to investigate evolutionary conservation of sex specific expression of dsx genes and to further assess their functions in the environmental sex determination, we searched for dsx homologs in four closely related cladoceran species. RESULTS: We identified homologs of both dsx genes from, D. pulex, D. galeata, and Ceriodaphnia dubia, yet only a single dsx gene was found from Moina macrocopa. The deduced amino acid sequences of all 9 dsx homologs contained the DM and oligomerization domains, which are characteristic for all arthropod DSX family members. Molecular phylogenetic analysis suggested that the dsx gene duplication likely occurred prior to the divergence of these cladoceran species, because that of the giant tiger prawn Penaeus monodon is rooted ancestrally to both DSX1 and DSX2 of cladocerans. Therefore, this result also suggested that M. macrocopa lost dsx2 gene secondarily. Furthermore, all dsx genes identified in this study showed male-biased expression levels, yet only half of the putative 5' upstream regulatory elements are preserved in D. magna and D. pulex. CONCLUSIONS: The all dsx genes of five cladoceran species examined had similar amino acid structure containing highly conserved DM and oligomerization domains, and exhibited sexually dimorphic expression patterns, suggesting that these genes may have similar functions for environmental sex determination in cladocerans.

Concepts: DNA, Evolution, Amino acid, Crustacean, Branchiopoda, Penaeus monodon, Cladocera, Daphnia


It is known that cyanobacteria negatively affect herbivores due to their production of toxins such as protease inhibitors. In the present study we investigated potential interspecific differences between two major herbivores, Daphnia magna and Daphnia pulex, in terms of their tolerance to cyanobacteria with protease inhibitors. Seven clones each of D. magna and of D. pulex were isolated from different habitats in Europe and North America. To test for interspecific differences in the daphnids' tolerance to cyanobacteria, their somatic and population growth rates were determined for each D. magna and D. pulex clone after exposure to varying concentrations of two Microcystis aeruginosa strains. The M. aeruginosa strains NIVA and PCC(-) contained either chymotrypsin or trypsin inhibitors, but no microcystins. Mean somatic and population growth rates on a diet with 20% NIVA were significantly more reduced in D. pulex than in D. magna. On a diet with 10% PCC(-), the population growth of D. pulex was significantly more reduced than that of D. magna. This indicates that D. magna is more tolerant to cyanobacteria with protease inhibitors than D. pulex. The reduction of growth rates was possibly caused by an interference of cyanobacterial inhibitors with proteases in the gut of Daphnia, as many other conceivable factors, which might have been able to explain the reduced growth, could be excluded as causal factors. Protease assays revealed that the sensitivities of chymotrypsins and trypsins to cyanobacterial protease inhibitors did not differ between D. magna and D. pulex. However, D. magna exhibited a 2.3-fold higher specific chymotrypsin activity than D. pulex, which explains the observed higher tolerance to cyanobacterial protease inhibitors of D. magna. The present study suggests that D. magna may control the development of cyanobacterial blooms more efficiently than D. pulex due to differences in their tolerance to cyanobacteria with protease inhibitors.

Concepts: Protease inhibitor, Enzyme, Serine protease, Trypsin, Branchiopoda, Proteolysis, Daphnia, Population growth


INTRODUCTION: One of the most interesting riddles within crustaceans is the origin of Cladocera (water fleas). Cladocerans are morphologically diverse and in terms of size and body segmentation differ considerably from other branchiopod taxa (Anostraca, Notostraca, Laevicaudata, Spinicaudata and Cyclestherida). In 1876, the famous zoologist Carl Claus proposed with regard to their origin that cladocerans might have evolved from a precociously maturing larva of a clam shrimp-like ancestor which was able to reproduce at this early stage of development. In order to shed light on this shift in organogenesis and to identify (potential) changes in the chronology of development (heterochrony), we investigated the external and internal development of the ctenopod Penilia avirostris and compared it to development in representatives of Anostraca, Notostraca, Laevicaudata, Spinicaudata and Cyclestherida. The development of the nervous system was investigated using immunohistochemical labeling and confocal microscopy. External morphological development was followed using a scanning electron microscope and confocal microscopy to detect the autofluorescence of the external cuticle. RESULTS: In Anostraca, Notostraca, Laevicaudata and Spinicaudata development is indirect and a free-swimming nauplius hatches from resting eggs. In contrast, development in Cyclestherida and Cladocera, in which non-swimming embryo-like larvae hatch from subitaneous eggs (without a resting phase) is defined herein as pseudo-direct and differs considerably from that of the other groups. Both external and internal development in Anostraca, Notostraca, Laevicaudata and Spinicaudata is directed from anterior to posterior, whereas in Cyclestherida and Cladocera differentiation is more synchronous. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, developmental sequences from representatives of all branchiopod taxa are compared and analyzed using a Parsimov event-pairing approach. The analysis reveals clear evolutionary transformations towards Cladocera and the node of Cladoceromorpha which correspond to distinct heterochronous signals and indicate that the evolution of Cladocera was a stepwise process. A switch from a strategy of indirect development to one of pseudo-direct development was followed by a shift in a number of morphological events to an earlier point in ontogenesis and simultaneously by a reduction in the number of pre-metamorphosis molts. A compression of the larval phase as well as a shortening of the juvenile phase finally leads to a precocious maturation and is considered as a gradual progenetic process.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Larva, Crustacean, Branchiopoda, Cladocera, Daphnia, Clam shrimp, Phyllopoda


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 cladoceran crustacean Daphnia pulex produces female offspring by parthenogenesis under favorable conditions, but in response to various unfavorable external stimuli, it produces male offspring (environmental sex determination: ESD). We recently established an innovative system for ESD studies using D. pulex WTN6 strain, in which the sex of the offspring can be controlled simply by changes in the photoperiod: the long-day and short-day conditions can induce female and male offspring, respectively. Taking advantage of this system, we demonstrated that de novo methyl farnesoate (MF) synthesis is necessary for male offspring production. These results indicate the key role of innate MF signaling as a conductor between external environmental stimuli and the endogenous male developmental pathway. Despite these findings, the molecular mechanisms underlying up- and downstream signaling of MF have not yet been well elucidated in D. pulex.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Sex, NMDA receptor, Sex-determination system, Branchiopoda, Daphnia, Temperature-dependent sex determination


The use of ecotoxicological techniques for the evaluation of the quality of limnetic waters allows the early detection of toxic agents that pose risks to human health. In this study Moina micrura (two clones), Daphnia laevis (two clones) and Daphnia similis, a temperate species, were used to evaluate the toxicity of six Microcystis extracts from two Colombian reservoirs. Toxin was detected and quantified by HPLC. Microcystin-LR was found in all extracts with the highest concentrations in one sample from each reservoir (434 μg g(-1) and 538 μg g(-1)). The extracts that had the highest toxin concentration also had the highest toxicities to cladocerans. Measurement of 48-h LC50 showed consistent differences between cladoceran species but not clones, Also, reproduction data in two species were consistent with the MC-LR content of one sample tested, with decreased reproduction and disruption of egg production. However, only some growth results of neonates exposed to extracts were consistent with the acute response. In conclusion, Daphnia species are a good model for monitoring cyanotoxins as they respond in a sensitive way to natural phytoplankton samples containing microcystin-LR.

Concepts: Human, Egg, Crustacean, Toxicology, Toxicity, Branchiopoda, Cladocera, Daphnia