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The crustaceans portal

Abludomelita obtusata.jpg

Crustaceans (Subphylum Crustacea) form a very large group of arthropods, which includes such familiar animals as crabs, lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, krill and barnacles. The 50,000 described species range in size from Stygotantulus stocki at 0.1 mm (0.004 in), to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span of up to 14 ft (4.3 m) and a mass of 44 lb (20 kg). Like other arthropods, crustaceans have an exoskeleton, which they moult in order to grow. They are distinguished from other groups of arthropods, such as insects, myriapods and chelicerates by the possession of biramous (two-parted) limbs, and by the nauplius form of the larvae. Most crustaceans are free-living aquatic animals, but some are terrestrial (e.g. woodlice), some are parasitic (e.g. fish lice, tongue worms) and some are sessile (e.g. barnacles). The group has an extensive fossil record, reaching back to the Cambrian, and includes living fossils such as Triops cancriformis, which has existed apparently unchanged since the Triassic period. More than 10 million tons of crustaceans are produced by fishery or farming for human consumption, the majority of it being shrimps and prawns. Krill and copepods are not as widely fished, but may be the animals with the greatest biomass on the planet, and form a vital part of the food chain.

Selected article

Carcinus maenas (Malacostraca: Decapoda: Carcinidae)
Carcinus maenas, the shore crab or green crab, is a common littoral crab, and an important invasive species, listed among the 100 "world's worst alien invasive species". Although native to the Baltic Sea, North Sea and north-east Atlantic Ocean, it has since become established on both east and west coasts of North America, in Argentina, South Africa and Australia. C. maenas is a predator feeding on many organisms, particularly bivalve molluscs (such as clams, oysters, and mussels), polychaetes and small crustaceans. It is primarily nocturnal, although activity also depends on the tide, and crabs can be active at any time of day.

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Dardanus pedunculatus (Decapoda: Diogenidae) with Calliactis sp. anemones

Selected biography

William Elford Leach FRS (February 2, 1790 – August 26, 1836) was an English zoologist and marine biologist. In 1813, Leach was employed as assistant librarian in the Zoological Department at the British Museum. He set himself to sorting out the collections, many of which had been neglected since they had been left to the museum by Hans Sloane. During his time there he was made assistant keeper of the natural history department and became an expert on crustaceans and molluscs. In 1817, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Leach also worked and published on insects, myriapods, arachnids, mammals and birds. Leach's nomenclature was a little eccentric - he named twenty-seven species after his friend John Cranch, who had collected the species in Africa and later died on HMS Congo. In 1818, he named nine genera after Caroline or anagrams of that name, possibly after his mistress. In 1821, he suffered a nervous breakdown due to overwork, and he resigned from the museum in March 1822. His elder sister took him to continental Europe to convalesce, and they travelled through France, Italy and Greece. He died of cholera in the Palazzo San Sebastiano, near Tortona, north of Genoa.

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