Dining habits of shrimps revealed

Shrimps

By Dr Chris Ashelby and Dr Magnus Johnson

An insight into the diets of shrimps has been revealed, with the discovery that shrimp species have their own remarkable unique jaw lines.

Whilst many people will associate shrimp only as a tasty snack best served with Marie Rose sauce, researchers at the University of Hull, with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, have been examining their morphology.

Until now, most modern descriptions of shrimp mandibles (jaws) have come from examining them using light microscopes. This limited method showed subtle differences that exist between mandibles.

Intrigued by this, the team examined the mandibles from nine related species of shrimp using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), discovering a previously unrecorded diversity in their form and structure.

Cuticular structures on the mandible of Palaemon macrodactylus

Cuticular structures on the mandible of Palaemon macrodactylus

The right mola -process of Desmocaris bislineata

The right mola -process of Desmocaris bislineata

Lead researcher Dr Chris Ashelby said: “The most striking feature of almost all of the mandibles examined was the hair-like cuticle structures that, under light microscopes, are barely visible to the human eye.

“The arrangement, placement and form of these structures, as well as overall form of the mandible, is different in different species, suggesting that different species of shrimps have both unique ways of feeding and unique food sources.

“The shrimps have developed unique apparatus for dealing with their specific food sources, retaining only those features that are useful to them.  In much the same way that a knife is not necessary for eating soup so a well-developed incisor is not necessary when you feed on body fluids and mucus.”

The right mandible of Anchistioides antiguensis

The right mandible of Anchistioides antiguensis

The right molar process of Macrobrachium nipponense

The right molar process of Macrobrachium nipponense

Five different sorts of cuticular structures and six basic forms of mandible were discovered in just the nine species included in this one study.

“With around 3,500 described shrimp species, and untold diversity currently undescribed, we have barely scratched the surface in terms of what could be expected” said Dr Ashelby.

“Who knows what other adaptations may be found by expanding the number of species included and looking at other families, superfamilies or even other crustacean groups.”

The research was undertaken by Dr Chris Ashelby and Dr Magnus Johnson from the University of Hull, in collaboration with Dr Sammy De Grave from the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

The full research was published in the Open Access Journal PeerJ.

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