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Arthropod Diversity

6 April, 2016 - 17:26

Phylum Arthropoda includes animals that have been successful in colonizing terrestrial, aquatic, and aerial habitats. The phylum is further classified into five subphyla: Trilobitomorpha (trilobites), Hexapoda (insects and relatives), Myriapoda (millipedes, centipedes, and relatives), Crustacea (crabs, lobsters, crayfish, isopods, barnacles, and some zooplankton), and Chelicerata (horseshoe crabs, arachnids, scorpions, and daddy longlegs). Trilobites are an extinct group of arthropods found from the Cambrian period (540–490 million years ago) until they became extinct in the Permian (300–251 million years ago) that are probably most closely related to the Chelicerata. The 17,000 described species have been identified from fossils (Figure 15.18).

The Hexapoda have six legs (three pairs) as their name suggests. Hexapod segments are fused into a head, thorax, and abdomen Figure 15.20). The thorax bears the wings and three pairs of legs. The insects we encounter on a daily basis—such as ants, cockroaches, butterflies, and bees—are examples of Hexapoda.

Figure 15.20 In this basic anatomy of a hexapod, note that insects have a developed digestive system (yellow), a respiratory system (blue), a circulatory system (red), and a nervous system (purple).

Subphylum Myriapoda includes arthropods with legs that may vary in number from 10 to 750. This subphylum includes 13,000 species; the most commonly found examples are millipedes and centipedes. All myriapods are terrestrial animals and prefer a humid environment (Figure 15.21).

Figure 15.21 (a) The centipede Scutigera coleoptrata has up to 15 pairs of legs. (b) This North American millipede (Narceus americanus) bears many legs, although not one thousand, as its name might suggest.

Crustaceans, such as shrimp, lobsters, crabs, and crayfish, are the dominant aquatic arthropods. A few crustaceans are terrestrial species like the pill bugs or sow bugs. The number of described crustaceanspecies stands at about 47,000. 1

Although the basic body plan in crustaceans is similar to the Hexapoda—head, thorax, and abdomen—the head and thorax may be fused in some species to form a cephalothorax, which is covered by a plate called the carapace (Figure 15.22). The exoskeleton of many species is also infused with calcium carbonate, which makes it even stronger than in other arthropods. Crustaceans have an open circulatory system in which blood is pumped into the hemocoel by the dorsal heart. Most crustaceans typically have separate sexes, but some, like barnacles, may be hermaphroditic. Serial hermaphroditism, in which the gonad can switch from producing sperm to ova, is also found in some crustacean species. Larval stages are seen in the early development of many crustaceans. Most crustaceans are carnivorous, but detritivores and filter feeders are also common.

Figure 15.22 The crayfish is an example of a crustacean. It has a carapace around the cephalothorax and the heart in the dorsal thorax area. (credit: Jane Whitney)

Subphylum Chelicerata includes animals such as spiders, scorpions, horseshoe crabs, and sea spiders. This subphylum is predominantly terrestrial, although some marine species also exist. An estimated 103,000  2 described species are included in subphylum Chelicerata.

The body of chelicerates may be divided into two parts and a distinct “head” is not always discernible. The phylum derives its name from the first pair of appendages: the chelicerae(Figure 15.23), which are specialized mouthparts. The chelicerae are mostly used for feeding, but in spiders, they are typically modified to inject venom into their prey (Figure 15.23). As in other members of Arthropoda, chelicerates also utilize an open circulatory system, with a tube-like heart that pumps blood into the large hemocoel that bathes the internal organs. Aquatic chelicerates utilize gill respiration, whereas terrestrial species use either tracheae or book lungs for gaseous exchange.

Figure 15.23 (a) The chelicerae (first set of appendages) are well developed in the Chelicerata, which includes scorpions (a) and spiders (b).


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