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Portal:Arthropods

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An arthropod (/ˈɑːrθrəpɒd/, from Greek ἄρθρον arthron, "joint" and πούς pous, "foot" (gen. ποδός)) is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton (external skeleton), a segmented body, and paired jointed appendages. Arthropods form the phylum Euarthropoda, which includes insects, arachnids, myriapods, and crustaceans. The term Arthropoda as originally proposed refers to a proposed grouping of Euarthropods and the phylum Onychophora.

Arthropods are characterized by their jointed limbs and cuticle made of chitin, often mineralised with calcium carbonate. The arthropod body plan consists of segments, each with a pair of appendages. The rigid cuticle inhibits growth, so arthropods replace it periodically by moulting. Arthropods are bilaterally symmetrical and their body possesses an external skeleton. Some species have wings.

Their versatility has enabled them to become the most species-rich members of all ecological guilds in most environments. They have over a million described species, making up more than 80 percent of all described living animal species, some of which, unlike most other animals, are very successful in dry environments. Arthropods range in size from the microscopic crustacean Stygotantulus up to the Japanese spider crab.

Arthropods' primary internal cavity is a haemocoel, which accommodates their internal organs, and through which their haemolymph – analogue of blood – circulates; they have open circulatory systems. Like their exteriors, the internal organs of arthropods are generally built of repeated segments. Their nervous system is "ladder-like", with paired ventral nerve cords running through all segments and forming paired ganglia in each segment. Their heads are formed by fusion of varying numbers of segments, and their brains are formed by fusion of the ganglia of these segments and encircle the esophagus. The respiratory and excretory systems of arthropods vary, depending as much on their environment as on the subphylum to which they belong.

Their vision relies on various combinations of compound eyes and pigment-pit ocelli: in most species the ocelli can only detect the direction from which light is coming, and the compound eyes are the main source of information, but the main eyes of spiders are ocelli that can form images and, in a few cases, can swivel to track prey. Arthropods also have a wide range of chemical and mechanical sensors, mostly based on modifications of the many bristles known as setae that project through their cuticles.

Arthropods' methods of reproduction and development are diverse; all terrestrial species use internal fertilization, but this is often by indirect transfer of the sperm via an appendage or the ground, rather than by direct injection. Aquatic species use either internal or external fertilization. Almost all arthropods lay eggs, but scorpions give birth to live young after the eggs have hatched inside the mother. Arthropod hatchlings vary from miniature adults to grubs and caterpillars that lack jointed limbs and eventually undergo a total metamorphosis to produce the adult form. The level of maternal care for hatchlings varies from nonexistent to the prolonged care provided by scorpions.

The evolutionary ancestry of arthropods dates back to the Cambrian period. The group is generally regarded as monophyletic, and many analyses support the placement of arthropods with cycloneuralians (or their constituent clades) in a superphylum Ecdysozoa. Overall, however, the basal relationships of animals are not yet well resolved. Likewise, the relationships between various arthropod groups are still actively debated.

Arthropods contribute to the human food supply both directly as food, and more importantly indirectly as pollinators of crops. Some species are known to spread severe disease to humans, livestock, and crops.

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A large reddish-brown crab-like animal climbing over the forest floor.
The coconut crab, Birgus latro, is a species of terrestrial hermit crab, also known as the "robber crab" or "palm thief". It is the largest land-living arthropod in the world, and is probably at the upper size limit of terrestrial animals with exoskeletons in today's atmosphere at a weight of up to 4.1 kg (9.0 lb). It is found on islands across the Indian Ocean and parts of the Pacific Ocean as far east as the Gambier Islands, mirroring the distribution of the coconut palm. Adults develop a tough exoskeleton on their abdomen and stop carrying a shell. They cannot swim, and will drown if immersed in water for long. Sexual maturity is reached after about 5 years, and the total lifespan may be over 60 years.

Adult coconut crabs feed on fruits, nuts, seeds, and the pith of fallen trees, but will eat carrion and other organic matter opportunistically. The species is popularly associated with the coconut, and has been widely reported to climb trees to pick coconuts, which it then opens to eat the flesh. While coconut crabs can climb trees, and can eventually open a coconut collectively, coconuts are not a significant part of their diet. Coconut crabs are hunted wherever they come into contact with humans, and are subject to legal protection in some areas. In the absence of precise information, the IUCN lists the species as Data Deficient.

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A black pill millipede, with white borders to each segment.

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An orange crab with bright red legs and alert eyes sits on dark rocks.
Cscr-featured.svg Credit: Elizabeth Crapo, NOAA Corps

The Sally Lightfoot crab, Grapsus grapsus, is a shore crab that lives from the Gulf of California to the Galápagos Islands.

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indicates an extinct taxon.

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Here are some tasks you can do:

  • Start a new article. Arthropods cover an huge range of taxa and other topics, so there will always be plenty of missing articles. Some which have been explicitly requested are listed here.
  • Clean up existing articles. Lists of articles needing cleanup are available either grouped by the work needed or ungrouped.
  • Expand an existing article. Existing articles are often incomplete and missing information on key aspects of the topic. It is particularly important that the most widely read articles be broad in their scope. Wikipedia:WikiProject Arthropods/Popular pages (updated monthly) shows the number of views each article gets, along with assessments of its quality and importance. Articles with higher importance ratings and greater numbers of views are the priority for article improvements, but almost all our articles would benefit from expansion. Stubs can be found in Category:Arthropod stubs and its subcategories.

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Biology • Animals  • Arthropods • Crustaceans • Insects • Marine life  

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