The crustacean garage
The Barnacle’s Rake
A barnacle uses its delicate legs to gather food particles in the same way that a rake collects leaves. The barnacle sweeps its legs through the water, trapping particles in tiny hairs of the legs. The barnacle then pulls these legs inside its shell and scrapes off the food particles.
The Stomatopod’s Sledgehammer
Some stomatopods, crustaceans that look a bit like praying mantises, use their massive forelegs as sledgehammers, smashing the life out of any tasty-looking mollusk or crab that happens to pass by.
The tiny crustacean, Caprella, clamps onto seaweed with its hooked rear legs and from there, uses its grasping forelegs to snag any edible morsels that drift by.
The Krill’s Leafblower
Some krill feed on small particles on the seafloor. To get to those edible tidbits, the krill use their abdominal appendages as fans to create a dirty cloud of sediment. The krill then backs up into the cloud and uses its other legs and mouthparts to filter bits of food out of the cloud.
The Remipede’s Oar
Remipedes use their series of paddle-like legs as oars, propelling themselves through the water in a kind of backstroke (they swim belly up!). The movement of their legs resembles a wave that travels down their bodies as they swim.
The Crab’s Crowbar
The coconut crab doesn’t let its size slow it down: these 3 – 5 kg (7 – 11 lb) land-dwelling behemoths can climb trees! The crabs’ legs are encased in an extra-thick exoskeleton that prevents drying out and equips them for the serious work of digging burrows, catching other crabs, and even prying open fallen coconuts!
A virtual toolbox
As you’ve seen, crustaceans boast a virtual toolbox of specialized appendages. The limbs of different lineages are specialized for different functions. Even a single animal may have a battery of tools within its set of appendages.
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