Saturday, January 29, 2011
January 29, 2011 : Amphipods
Amphipoda is an order of malacostracan crustaceans with no carapace and generally with laterally compressed bodies. The name amphipoda means "different-footed", and refers to the different forms of appendages, unlike isopods, where all the legs are alike. Of the 7,000 species, 5,500 are classified into one suborder, Gammaridea. The remainder are divided into two or three further suborders. Amphipods range in size from 1 to 340 millimetres (0.039 to 13 in) and are mostly detritivores or scavengers. They live in almost all aquatic environments; 750 species live in caves and the order also includes terrestrial animals and sandhoppers such as Talitrus saltator.
Amphipods are typically less than 10 millimetres (0.39 in) long, but the largest recorded living amphipods were 28 centimetres (11 in) long, and were photographed at a depth of 5,300 metres (17,400 ft) in the Pacific Ocean. Samples from the Atlantic Ocean with a reconstructed length of 34 centimetres (13 in) have been assigned to the same species, Alicella gigantea. The smallest known amphipods are less than 1 millimetre (0.04 in) long. The size of amphipods is limited by the availability of dissolved oxygen, such that the amphipods in Lake Titicaca at an altitude of 3,800 metres (12,500 ft) can only grow up to 22 millimetres (0.87 in), compared to lengths of 90 millimetres (3.5 in) in Lake Baikal at 455 metres (1,500 ft).
Amphipods are found in almost all aquatic environments, from fresh water to water with twice the salinity of sea water. They are almost always an important component of aquatic ecosystems. Most species in the suborder Gammaridea are epibenthic, although they are often collected in plankton samples. Members of the Hyperiidea are all planktonic and marine. Many are symbionts of gelatinous animals, including salps medusae, siphonophores, colonial radiolarians and ctenophores, and most hyperiids are associated with gelatinous animals during some part of their life cycle.
Compared to other crustacean groups, such as the Isopoda, Rhizocephala or Copepoda, relatively few amphipods are parasitic on other animals. The most notable example of parasitic amphipods are the whale lice (family Cyamidae); unlike other amphipods, these are dorso-ventrally flattened, and have large, strong claws, with which they attach themselves to baleen whales. They are the only parasitic crustaceans which cannot swim during any part of their life cycle.
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