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Concept: Crustacean


Global declines in insects have sparked wide interest among scientists, politicians, and the general public. Loss of insect diversity and abundance is expected to provoke cascading effects on food webs and to jeopardize ecosystem services. Our understanding of the extent and underlying causes of this decline is based on the abundance of single species or taxonomic groups only, rather than changes in insect biomass which is more relevant for ecological functioning. Here, we used a standardized protocol to measure total insect biomass using Malaise traps, deployed over 27 years in 63 nature protection areas in Germany (96 unique location-year combinations) to infer on the status and trend of local entomofauna. Our analysis estimates a seasonal decline of 76%, and mid-summer decline of 82% in flying insect biomass over the 27 years of study. We show that this decline is apparent regardless of habitat type, while changes in weather, land use, and habitat characteristics cannot explain this overall decline. This yet unrecognized loss of insect biomass must be taken into account in evaluating declines in abundance of species depending on insects as a food source, and ecosystem functioning in the European landscape.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Insect, Ecology, Crustacean, Ecosystem, Taxonomic rank, Ant, Ecological economics


We investigated the navigational capabilities of the world’s largest land-living arthropod, the giant robber crab Birgus latro (Anomura, Coenobitidae); this crab reaches 4 kg in weight and can reach an age of up to 60 years. Populations are distributed over small Indo-Pacific islands of the tropics, including Christmas Island (Indian Ocean). Although this species has served as a crustacean model to explore anatomical, physiological, and ecological aspects of terrestrial adaptations, few behavioral analyses of it exist. We used a GPS-based telemetric system to analyze movements of freely roaming robber crabs, the first large-scale study of any arthropod using GPS technology to monitor behavior. Although female robber crabs are known to migrate to the coast for breeding, no such observations have been recorded for male animals. In total, we equipped 55 male robber crabs with GPS tags, successfully recording more than 1,500 crab days of activity, and followed some individual animals for as long as three months. Besides site fidelity with short-distance excursions, our data reveal long-distance movements (several kilometers) between the coast and the inland rainforest. These movements are likely related to mating, saltwater drinking and foraging. The tracking patterns indicate that crabs form route memories. Furthermore, translocation experiments show that robber crabs are capable of homing over large distances. We discuss if the search behavior induced in these experiments suggests path integration as another important navigation strategy.

Concepts: Crustacean, Coconut crab, Coenobitidae, Anomura, Christmas Island, Caroline Island, Chagos Archipelago


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


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


The amphipod crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis is a blossoming model system for studies of developmental mechanisms and more recently regeneration. We have sequenced the genome allowing annotation of all key signaling pathways, transcription factors, and non-coding RNAs that will enhance ongoing functional studies. Parhyale is a member of the Malacostraca clade, which includes crustacean food crop species. We analysed the immunity related genes of Parhyale as an important comparative system for these species, where immunity related aquaculture problems have increased as farming has intensified. We also find that Parhyale and other species within Multicrustacea contain the enzyme sets necessary to perform lignocellulose digestion (‘wood eating’), suggesting this ability may predate the diversification of this lineage. Our data provide an essential resource for further development of Parhyale as an experimental model. The first malacostracan genome will underpin ongoing comparative work in food crop species and research investigating lignocellulose as an energy source.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, RNA, Developmental biology, Model organism, Crustacean, Malacostraca


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


Invasive non-native species are of great concern throughout the world. Potential severity of the impacts of non-native species is assessed for effective conservation managements. However, such risk assessment is often difficult, and underestimating possible harm can cause substantial issues. Here, we document catastrophic decline of a soil ecosystem in the Ogasawara Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to predation by non-native land nemertine Geonemertes pelaensis of which harm has been previously unnoticed. This nemertine is widely distributed in tropical regions, and no study has shown that it feeds on arthropods. However, we experimentally confirmed that G. pelaensis predates various arthropod groups. Soil fauna of Ogasawara was originally dominated by isopods and amphipods, but our surveys in the southern parts of Hahajima Island showed that these became extremely scarce in the areas invaded by G. pelaensis. Carnivorous arthropods decreased by indirect effects of its predation. Radical decline of soil arthropods since the 1980s on Chichijima Island was also caused by G. pelaensis and was first recorded in 1981. Thus, the soil ecosystem was already seriously damaged in Ogasawara by the nemertine. The present findings raise an issue and limitation in recognizing threats of non-native species.

Concepts: Crustacean, UNESCO, Australia, Malacostraca, World Heritage Site, Cultural heritage, International Council on Monuments and Sites, Natural heritage


Pig carcasses, as human proxies, were placed on the seabed at a depth of 300 m, in the Strait of Georgia and observed continuously by a remotely operated camera and instruments. Two carcasses were deployed in spring and two in fall utilizing Ocean Network Canada’s Victoria Experimental Network under the Sea (formerly VENUS) observatory. A trial experiment showed that bluntnose sixgill sharks could rapidly devour a carcass so a platform was designed which held two matched carcasses, one fully exposed, the other covered in a barred cage to protect it from sharks, while still allowing invertebrates and smaller vertebrates access. The carcasses were deployed under a frame which supported a video camera, and instruments which recorded oxygen, temperature, salinity, density, pressure, conductivity, sound speed and turbidity at per minute intervals. The spring exposed carcass was briefly fed upon by sharks, but they were inefficient feeders and lost interest after a few bites. Immediately after deployment, all carcasses, in both spring and fall, were very rapidly covered in vast numbers of lyssianassid amphipods. These skeletonized the carcasses by Day 3 in fall and Day 4 in spring. A dramatic, very localized drop in dissolved oxygen levels occurred in fall, exactly coinciding with the presence of the amphipods. Oxygen levels returned to normal once the amphipods dispersed. Either the physical presence of the amphipods or the sudden draw down of oxygen during their tenure, excluded other fauna. The amphipods fed from the inside out, removing the skin last. After the amphipods had receded, other fauna colonized such as spot shrimp and a few Dungeness crabs but by this time, all soft tissue had been removed. The amphipod activity caused major bioturbation in the local area and possible oxygen depletion. The spring deployment carcasses became covered in silt and a black film formed on them and on the silt above them whereas the fall bones remained uncovered and hence continued to be attractive to large numbers of spot shrimp. The carcass remains were recovered after 166 and 134 days respectively for further study.

Concepts: Oxygen, Arthropod, Water pollution, Crustacean, Malacostraca, Strait of Georgia, Dungeness crab, Bluntnose sixgill shark


It has been suggested that we do not know within an order of magnitude the number of all species on Earth [May RM (1988) Science 241(4872):1441-1449]. Roughly 1.5 million valid species of all organisms have been named and described [Costello MJ, Wilson S, Houlding B (2012) Syst Biol 61(5):871-883]. Given Kingdom Animalia numerically dominates this list and virtually all terrestrial vertebrates have been described, the question of how many terrestrial species exist is all but reduced to one of how many arthropod species there are. With beetles alone accounting for about 40% of all described arthropod species, the truly pertinent question is how many beetle species exist. Here we present four new and independent estimates of beetle species richness, which produce a mean estimate of 1.5 million beetle species. We argue that the surprisingly narrow range (0.9-2.1 million) of these four autonomous estimates-derived from host-specificity relationships, ratios with other taxa, plant:beetle ratios, and a completely novel body-size approach-represents a major advance in honing in on the richness of this most significant taxon, and is thus of considerable importance to the debate on how many species exist. Using analogous approaches, we also produce independent estimates for all insects, mean: 5.5 million species (range 2.6-7.8 million), and for terrestrial arthropods, mean: 6.8 million species (range 5.9-7.8 million), which suggest that estimates for the world’s insects and their relatives are narrowing considerably.

Concepts: Organism, Insect, Fungus, Arthropod, Animal, Crustacean, Beetle, Spider


How do stunning functional innovations evolve from unspecialized progenitors? This puzzle is particularly acute for ultrafast movements of appendages in arthropods as diverse as shrimps [1], stomatopods [2], insects [3-6], and spiders [7]. For example, the spectacular snapping claws of alpheid shrimps close so fast (∼0.5 ms) that jetted water creates a cavitation bubble and an immensely powerful snap upon bubble collapse [1]. Such extreme movements depend on (1) an energy-storage mechanism (e.g., some kind of spring) and (2) a latching mechanism to release stored energy quickly [8]. Clearly, rapid claw closure must have evolved before the ability to snap, but its evolutionary origins are unknown. Unearthing the functional mechanics of transitional stages is therefore essential to understand how such radical novel abilities arise [9-11]. We reconstructed the evolutionary history of shrimp claw form and function by sampling 114 species from 19 families, including two unrelated families within which snapping evolved independently (Alpheidae and Palaemonidae) [12, 13]. Our comparative analyses, using micro-computed tomography (microCT) and confocal imaging, high-speed video, and kinematic experiments with select 3D-printed scale models, revealed a previously unrecognized “slip joint” in non-snapping shrimp claws. This slip joint facilitated the parallel evolution of a novel energy-storage and cocking mechanism-a torque-reversal joint-an apparent precondition for snapping. Remarkably, these key functional transitions between ancestral (simple pinching) and derived (snapping) claws were achieved by minute differences in joint structure. Therefore, subtle changes in form appear to have facilitated wholly novel functional change in a saltational manner. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Concepts: Evolution, Insect, Arthropod, Crustacean, Evolutionary biology, Paleontology, Caridea, Mantis shrimp