Remipede: The First Ever Venomous Crustacean Discovered by Scientists

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December 23, 2013 • 15,317 views

Story at-a-glance

  • Researchers have found the very first venomous crustacean. It’s called the remipede, and it makes its home in the underwater caves of the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, and Western Australia.
  • According to the authors of a study published recently in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, "The spider-like feeding technique of the remipede is unique among crustaceans. This venom is clearly a great adaptation for these blind cave-dwellers that live in nutrient-poor underwater caves."
  • The remipede provides the first evidence of venom used by crustaceans, and the London study adds a new, important group to the category of known venomous animals.

By Dr. Becker

A few months ago, scientists discovered the first venomous crustacean. It’s a blind centipede-like creature that makes its home in underwater caves in the Caribbean, the Canary Islands, and Western Australia.

The findings were reported in the October issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.1

The Remipede Liquefies Its Prey with a Venomous Cocktail

The “remipede” (Speleonectes tulumensis) as the little creature is called, liquefies its prey with venom similar to that found in the fangs of rattlesnakes. The venom is an elaborate brew of toxins that includes enzymes and a paralyzing substance. It breaks down the body tissues of prey, allowing the remipede to suck out a liquid meal from the exoskeleton.

According to the study’s co-author, Dr. Ronald Jenner of London’s Natural History Museum:

“The unique insights from this study really help improve our understanding of the evolution of animal venoms.

"The spider-like feeding technique of the remipede is unique among crustaceans. This venom is clearly a great adaptation for these blind cave-dwellers that live in nutrient-poor underwater caves."

Crustaceans belong to a larger category of animals called arthropods, most of which live in the water. Other crustaceans include crab, krill, lobster and shrimp.

'Not one of the approximately 70,000 described species of crustaceans was known, until now, to be venomous.'

The remipede provides the first evidence of venom used by crustaceans, and the London study adds a new, important group to the category of known venomous animals.

According to Dr. Bjoern von Reumont, also of the Natural History Museum, “Venoms are especially common in three of the four major groups of arthropods, such as insects. Crustaceans, however, are a glaring exception to the rule.”

Not one of the estimated 70,000 known species of crustaceans was known – until now – to be venomous.

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 Molecular Biology and Evolution, October 2013