Brooding and embryonic development in the crustacean 'Paragnathia formica' (Hesse, 1864) (Peracarida:Isopoda: Gnathiidae)

Manship, Brigitte M., Walker, Anthony J. and Davies, Angela J. (2011) Brooding and embryonic development in the crustacean 'Paragnathia formica' (Hesse, 1864) (Peracarida:Isopoda: Gnathiidae). Arthropod Structure & Development, 40(2), pp. 135-145. ISSN (print) 1467-8039


The crustacean family Gnathiidae Leach, 1814 (Peracarida: Isopoda) comprises 12 genera known mostly from marine environments. Juvenile gnathiid isopods are fish ectoparasites, feeding on blood and tissue fluids in order to complete their life cycles. Gnathiid juvenile development generally includes three moults, the last involving metamorphosis to non feeding, adult stages. The blood meal ingested by juveniles provides resources for adult survival, reproduction and embryological development. Reproductive biology in the brackish water gnathiid, Paragnathia formica (Hesse, 1864), is unusual amongst crustaceans, since brooding females have paired internal uterine sacs, rather than an external brood pouch. Known embryological development for P. formica includes three post gastrulation stages. In the current study, brooding and embryological development in this gnathiid were reexamined using histological and fluorescence methods, and by scanning electron microscopy. Novel observations were made of the blastodisc and germ cell migration within developing eggs, release of Stage 2 embryos by rupture of embryonic membranes, the in utero moult of Stage 2 to Stage 3 embryos, and the asynchronous development of the brood within the paired uterine sacs. These findings highlight the remarkable nature of brooding in P. formica and expand the paucity of knowledge of embryological development in gnathiids in general.

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