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Phenotypic variability in the shield morphology of wild- vs. lab-reared eumalacostracan larvae

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posted on 2023-01-24, 07:24 authored by Florian Braig, Carolin Haug, Joachim T. Haug

Abstract Morphological identification of planktic crustacean larvae is required in many scientific contexts, such as ecology or taxonomy. Due to a still low availability of genetic sequences for many ingroups of Eumalacostraca, this task is still more feasible by morphological methods. Our understanding of eumalacostracan larval morphology is challenged by phenotypic variability. We investigated four eumalacostracan ingroups: Galatheidae, Hippoidea, Raninidae and Stomatopoda. Representatives of all four groups develop through spine-bearing planktic larval stages. Incorporating dorsal and lateral shield outlines into three-dimensional shape analysis of the shields, we compare specimens from the wild with laboratory-reared specimens. Using graphical and statistical analysis methods, we find that at least the lateral morphology of the shields of Hippoidea and Raninidae seems to be too strongly dependent on phylogeny to show phenotypic variability with our current sample size, but Hippoidea do show phenotypic variability in their dorsal shield morphology. In Galatheidae and Stomatopoda, a clear difference in shield morphology can be found between wild-caught and laboratory-reared specimens. This difference likely represents phenotypic variability. The exact environmental signals causing this phenotypic variability are still unknown, but some candidates are discussed.