Understanding Evolution

Crustaceans: Exploiting evolutionary opportunity

Beyond an exoskeleton, if there's one thing arthropods have going for them, it's legs — lots of them! The arthropods' jointed appendage is both their namesake (arthro = joint, pod = foot) and a key to their success. Over time, the basic limb layout of the ancestral arthropod evolved into specialized forms suited for different functions, allowing arthropods to invade new niches and habitats. Let's examine one group, the crustaceans, that has enjoyed incredible success through evolution of the basic arthropod limb.

From the feathery limbs of a barnacle...
mantis shrimp
...to the vicious spears of the mantis shrimp...
...to the sturdy claws of a lobster — crustaceans have evolved some amazing limbs.


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Barnacle photo provided by George Brooks © California Academy of Sciences, SFBAY:2K Project; Mantis shrimp photo provided by Dr. Roy Caldwell; Lobster photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce

Understanding Evolution © 2021 by The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and the Regents of the University of California