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The oldest peracarid crustacean reveals a Late Devonian freshwater colonisation by isopod relatives

By Ninon Robin, Pierre Gueriau, Javier Luque, David Jarvis, Allison Daley, Ronald Vonk

Posted 26 Apr 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.25.441336

Peracarida (e.g., woodlice & side-swimmers) are, together with their sister-group Eucarida (e.g. krill & decapods), the most speciose group of modern crustaceans, suggested to have appeared as early as the Ordovician. While eucarids incursion onto land consists of mainly freshwater and littoral grounds, some peracarids have evolved fully terrestrial ground-crawling ecologies, inhabiting even our gardens in temperate regions (e.g. pillbugs and sowbugs). Their fossil record extends back to the Carboniferous and consists mainly of marine occurrences. Here, we provide a complete re-analysis of a fossil arthropod, Oxyuropoda, reported in 1908 from the Late Devonian floodplains of Ireland, and left with unresolved systematic affinities despite a century of attempts at identification. Known from a single specimen preserved in two-dimensions, we analysed its anatomy using digital microscopy and multispectral macro-imaging to enhance contrast of morphological structures. The new anatomical characters and completeness of Oxyuropoda, together with a phylogenetic analysis with representatives of all major Eumalacostraca groups, indicate that Oxyuropoda is a crown-peracarid, part of a clade including amphipods and isopods. As such, Oxyuropoda is the oldest known Peracarida, and provides evidence that derived peracarids had an incursion into freshwater and terrestrial environments as early as the Famennian, more than 360 million years ago.

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