A report published in the journal titled Molecular Biology and Evolution revealed that crustaceans found in Western Australia, the Caribbean and the Canary Islands are the first venomous crustaceans. These crustaceans are called "remipede" with a scientific name Speleonectes tulumensis.
"We screened a transcriptomic library obtained from whole animals and identified a non-toxin paralogue of the remipede neurotoxin that is not expressed in the venom glands. This allowed us to reconstruct its probable evolutionary origin, and underlines the importance of incorporating data derived from non-venom gland tissue to elucidate the evolution of candidate venom proteins. This first glimpse into the venom of a crustacean and primitively aquatic arthropod reveals conspicuous differences from the venoms of other predatory arthropods such as centipedes, scorpions and spiders, and contributes valuable information for ultimately disentangling the many factors shaping the biology and evolution of venoms and venomous species," the report said.
Remipedes were first described in 1981 as blind, aquatic and cave-dwelling crustaceans. They looked like terrestrial centipedes because of their long, segmented bodies equipped with swimming legs.
"We provide the first conclusive evidence that the aquatic, blind and cave-dwelling remipede crustaceans are venomous, and that venoms evolved in all four major arthropod groups. We produced a three-dimensional reconstruction of the venom delivery apparatus of the remipede, Speleonectes tulumensis, showing that remipedes can inject venom in a controlled manner. A transcriptomic profile of its venom glands shows that they express a unique cocktail of transcripts coding for known venom toxins, including a diversity of enzymes and a probable paralytic neurotoxin very similar to one described from spider venom," stated the report.
Dr Bjoern von Reumont, with his team from the Natural History museum, said that the venom found in remipedes is unique among crustaceans. The venom found is made of chemicals, including a paralysing neurotoxin.
"This venom is clearly a great adaptation for these blind cave-dwellers that live in nutrient-poor underwater caves.While they can be as varied as tiny waterfleas, krill, crabs and barnacles, not one of the approximately 70,000 described species of crustaceans was known, until now, to be venomous," according to senior author and Museum zoologist Dr Ronald Jenner.
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