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.