The phylum Arthropoda is the largest and most varied in the animal kingdom. It includes well over one million described species. This represents approximately three-quarters of all known biological organisms, living or extinct. Countless arthropods remain undescribed (not yet named and studied), and the actual number of living species could be as high as ten million or more. Some of the more well-known arthropods include insects, crustaceans, and spiders, as well as the fossil trilobites . Arthropods are found in virtually every known marine (ocean-based), freshwater, and terrestrial (land-based) ecosystem, and vary tremendously in their habitats, life histories, and dietary preferences.
Characteristics of Arthropods
Despite the remarkable variety of arthropod species, all share aspects of a single basic body plan. All arthropods possess a stiff exoskeleton (external skeleton) composed primarily of chitin . In some species, lipids, proteins, and calcium carbonate may also contribute to the exoskeleton. The external skeleton offers organisms protection as well as support for the body. Its walls provide anchors for the attachment of muscles. The exoskeleton is incapable of growth, and is molted (shed) repeatedly during the growth of the animal. This process is called ecdysis. Molting allows for rapid growth until the newly secreted exoskeleton hardens.
Arthropod bodies are divided into segments. However, a number of segments are sometimes fused to form integrated body parts known as tagmata. This process of fusion is called tagmosis. The head, thorax, and abdomen are examples of tagmata. Arthropods also have appendages with joints (the word "arthropod" means "jointed feet"). In early, primitive anthropods, each body segment was associated with a single pair of appendages (attachments). However, in most species some appendages have been modified to form other structures, such as mouthparts, antennae, or reproductive organs. Arthropod appendages may be either biramous (branched) or uniramous (unbranched).
Some arthropods have highly developed sense organs. Most species have paired compound eyes , and many also have a number of simpler eyes called ocelli. Arthropods have an open circulatory system (without blood vessels) that consists of a tube that is the heart and an open hemocoel , the coelom of the animal, in which blood pools. Arthropods also have a complete gut with two openings, the mouth and the anus.
Gas exchange in the phylum occurs in various ways. Some species have gills, while others employ tracheae, or book lungs. The tracheal respiratory system consists of external openings called spiracles that are linked to a system of branched tubules which allow respiratory gases to reach internal tissues. Arthropods are characterized by a brain as well as a nerve ring around the area of the pharynx, in the oral cavity. A double nerve cord extends backwards along the ventral surface of the body, and each body segment is associated with its own ganglion, or mass of nerve cells. In most arthropod species, the sexes are separate. Fertilization usually occurs internally, and most species are egg laying. While some species exhibit direct development, in which eggs hatch as miniature versions of adults, other species pass through an immature larval stage and undergo a dramatic metamorphosis before reaching adult form.
Major Groups of Arthropods
Arthropods are divided into four subphyla. These are the Chelicerata, the Crustacea, the Uniramia, and the Trilobita. The last consists exclusively of extinct forms.
The chelicerates include the horseshoe crabs , scorpions, spiders, ticks, mites, sea spiders, and other related species. They are characterized by the presence of two tagmata (fused segments), a cephalothorax (fused head and thorax), and an abdomen. They possess six pairs of unbranched appendages. These include a pair of chelicerae , a pair of pedipals, and four pairs of legs.
The class Arachnida includes scorpions, spiders, ticks, and mites. There are over 100,000 described species in this class. The majority are land-based and most are found in fairly warm, dry habitats. Like other chelicerates, arachnids have six pairs of appendages. The first pair, the chelicerae, is typically adapted for killing and consuming prey. The second pair, pedipals, have a sensory function, and may include both receptors sensitive to touch and receptors sensitive to chemical changes. The final four pairs of appendages are walking legs. Arachnids have fairly simple eyes that register only changes in light levels. Of the arachnids, spiders (which make up the Order Araneae) are the most diverse. All spiders are able to spin webs using modified appendages called spinnerets. These are located in the rear abdomen. Webs are used for a variety of purposes in different species. In many, they are used to catch prey and to build nests. Spiderwebs can even be used for movement, as in those species that create parachutes to catch the air, enabling them to descend safely. Many spiders have toxic poisons to immobilize prey or to use in self-defense; perhaps the most famous of these is the black widow. Spiders prey primarily on insects, and are often ecologically important for this reason. Scorpions (order Scorpiones) are arachnids characterized by a pair of claws and a long, jointed tail with a poisonous sting at the end. Ticks and mites (order Acari) are ectoparasites. They embed themselves in the skin of vertebrate animals and feed on blood. Certain tick species carry diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
The class Merostomata includes the horseshoe crabs. Horseshoe crabs are an extremely ancient marine lineage. Only five species have survived to the present. They are characterized by a long appendage called a telson that projects from the rear end of the body, which is used in flipping the animal over when it is lying on its carapace. They use book gills to breathe and generally feed on small invertebrates.
The class Pycnogonida consists of the sea spiders. There are 2,000 described species, all of which are marine. Most species are fairly small. Like spiders, they have small bodies with long legs. They use an extensible proboscis to suck nutrients from the bodies of soft invertebrates.
The subphylum Crustacea includes lobsters, crabs, shrimp, barnacles, and other related organisms. There are approximately 40,000 described species. The majority are marine, but there are freshwater and land-based representatives as well. Unlike other arthropods, the crustacean exoskeleton often includes calcium carbonate, which offers added rigidity. Crustaceans generally have three tagmata: a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. There are two pairs of antennae, complicated mouthparts consisting of two pairs of maxillae (upper jaws) and one pair of mandibles (lower jaws) used in food processing, and a series of branched appendages. These appendages are associated with the thorax. Some function as walking legs while others may be specialized for capturing prey. The abdomen is sometimes equipped with swimmerets (small swimming legs that are also used for other purposes, including as copulatory organs in males and for egg carrying in females) and a tail that is composed of modified appendages in addition to a telson. Some crustacean species have well-developed sensory systems, including highly sensitive compound eyes on stalks, ears, chemoreceptors for taste and/or smell, telson and hairs or bristles that function as touch receptors. Crustaceans have a wide variety of ways to capture food. Some are filter feeders , while others are scavengers or predators. In most species, the sexes are separate. Some species pass through what is called a nauplius larval stage prior to metamorphosing into adults, while others have direct development and bypass the larval stage. Crustaceans use gills to inhale and exhale air.
The class Branchiopoda include the brine shrimp, water fleas, and other related groups. Species in this class are generally small and tend to live in freshwater habitats or in salty lakes. Most species have a large number of segments with minimal fusing of segments, or tagmiosis. The majority are filter feeders.
The class Maxillopoda includes the barnacles and related groups. Maxillopods have a head, thorax, and abdomen along with a telson projecting from the back end of their bodies. Most species are small and feed using their maxillae. Barnacles, however, are sessile (immobile) filter feeders. They are often seen in large numbers, anchored to structures such as ship bottoms or piers.
The class Malacostraca has over 20,000 species and is the largest group within the Crustacea. Most species are marine, but others are freshwater or terrestrial. The largest order, Decapoda, includes shrimp, crabs, crayfish, and lobsters. Other well-known malacostracans include krill as well as a terrestrial group, the sowbugs. The malacostracans exhibit a variety of feeding strategies. The more primitive species tend to be filter feeders. Others are scavengers. Crabs and lobsters are active predators. They have a pair of chelipeds, also known as claws or pincers, which are used to capture and carry prey. Pincers have evolved to serve other functions as well, however, and in various species are used for digging, defense from predators, or in courtship rituals. Some malacostracan species are parasites. Many malacostracans, including many of the larval forms, are critical components of oceanic plankton, a critical component of oceanic food webs.
Uniramia is the largest subphylum within the arthropods. It includes the centipedes, the millipedes, and the insects, as well as a few smaller related groups. The name Uniramia comes from the unbranched appendages that characterize members of the group. Species generally have two or three tagmata. There are one pair of antennae and two pairs of maxillae. Respiration occurs via tracheae. Uniramians generally have separate sexes.
The class Chilopoda includes the centipedes, a diverse group of over 5,000 species. These terrestrial organisms are characterized by a very large number of segments, often well over 100. The largest centipedes reach lengths of up to 25 centimeters (10 inches). Each centipede body segment, aside from a few at the head and tail of the organism, is associated with a single pair of legs. All centipedes are carnivorous, and the appendages that are frontmost have been modified to form large poisonous fangs that are used to immobilize prey. Centipedes feed primarily on earthworms and insects. Species of centipedes are generally egg laying, and in some, the female remains to guard the eggs. Development is direct—there is no larval stage. In some species, juveniles hatch with the same number of segments as an adult, while in others, individuals add segments with each molt.
The class Diplopoda consists of the millipedes, a group that includes over 8,000 described species. Like centipedes, millipedes have a large number of segments. However, they differ from centipedes in that each segment has two pairs of legs rather than just one. Millipedes do not have fangs, and in fact, most species are either herbivorous or scavengers. Many millipedes do, however, exude (ooze) poisonous or noxious substances as a defense against potential predators. Millipedes are often found in decaying organic matter or in moist soils. They are effective burrowers. Like some species of centipedes, they lay eggs in nests that are attended by the female. Millipedes add body segments as they grow and molt.
The class Insecta is the largest class in the animal kingdom. There are nearly one million described species, and no doubt countless others that have yet to be named. Insects are found in a wide variety of terrestrial and freshwater habitats, and there are even a few marine forms.
Insects have three tagmata, or fused segments: a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. They have a pair of antennae; a series of complex, highly variable mouthparts, which vary greatly from species to species; and three pairs of legs. Both the antennae and mouthparts are evolved from modified appendages (walking legs, most likely). Most insect species also have two pairs of wings, although these are absent in a few very primitive species and have been reduced in others, becoming nonfunctional or adapted for a different purpose. Insect legs and wings are associated with the thorax, not the abdomen, which does not usually carry appendages except for appendages that are evolved into reproductive organs. A theory of the origin of insect flight maintains that wings evolved from external gills that were present in certain primitive groups. Aside from their breathing function, these gills served as flaps that assisted insects in leaping and jumping, and were advantageous because they made escape from predators more likely. Gradual increases in wing size allowed for gliding movement, and ultimately for flapping flight.
Insects have highly elaborated sense organs. For example, they may possess a pair of compound eyes as well as several cranial ocelli, or simple eyes. The compound eye is made up of hundreds of individual facets, or parts. Each facet points in a different direction. An individual facet provides information regarding the color and intensity of light but does not provide a complete image. Together, however, the numerous facets create a combined, mosaic image of the world. Compound eyes are particularly effective for seeing nearby objects; distance vision is not as good. The greatest advantage of compound eyes is that they are able to register changes in the visual field much more quickly than eyes with lenses. This is particularly important for detecting motion, as well as for the rapid maneuvering required during flight. Many insects also have well-developed ears. Some species also have an extraordinary ability to detect chemicals. This is especially true in species that use chemical signals called pheromones for detection of a sexual partner. The pheromones are emitted by receptive females and picked up by males, which use them to locate potential mates.
Insects breathe through the tracheal system, described earlier. Because of limits on the spread of gas in the trachea, insects are restricted to a comparatively small size. The excretory system of insects consists of structures known as Malpighian tubules. The sexes are separate in insects, and fertilization occurs internally in most species.
The variety in patterns of insect development is exceptionally high. Most insects pass through several stages before reaching the final adult form. Insects may be described as either hemimetabolous or holometabolous. In hemimetabolous forms, the hatched young resemble adults reasonably closely, although they may be sexually immature and may lack wings. In holometabolous insects, on the other hand, there is a distinct larval stage that is dramatically different from the adult stage in almost all ways: morphology (form and structure), diet, and habitat. In holometabolous insects, there are usually several different larval stages separated by molts. After a period in which the larva grows, it then enters a sessile pupal phase during which a dramatic metamorphosis occurs, and the insect emerges from the pupa with its adult form.
Certain insect groups are highly social. Termites and many species of Hymenoptera (ants, wasps, and bees) are eusocial , meaning that their colonies include a caste (a segment of the population) that reproduces as well as a large number of individuals that do not. The evolution of nonreproductive species seems to pose a problem because it appears to defy natural selection, which emphasizes the production of offspring. However, direct reproduction is not the only way for an individual to pass on its genes. For example, because an individual's siblings share some of its genes, contribution to the production of a large number of siblings will also result in an individual's genes being represented in the population. This is what occurs in the eusocial insects. In addition, unusual behaviors in termites (repeated cycles of inbreeding) and unusual genetic systems in hymenopterans (haplodiploidy, in which males of the species are haploid while females are diploid) increase the proportion of genes shared by siblings.
Insects play many vital roles in maintaining ecological systems. Many insects act as pollinators to higher plants. Others are important in decomposition. Many species are agricultural pests or parasites, and have a dramatic impact on humans. The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster is one of the most well-studied biological organisms and serves as a model species for studies of genetics , development, and evolution.
Some well-known insect groups include the Thysanura (silverfish), Ephemeroptera (mayflies), Odonata (dragonflies), Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids), Blattaria (cockroaches), Isoptera (termites), Heteroptera (true bugs), Homoptera (cicadas and aphids), Coleoptera (beetles), Siphonaptera (fleas), Diptera (flies), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), and Hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps).
The subphylum Trilobita includes only extinct species found in fossil form. The trilobites were a primitive group of marine species that was particularly abundant during the Cambrian (570 million years ago) and Ordovician (505 million years ago) periods. The group became extinct at the end of the Permian (286 million years ago). Trilobites had flattened, oval-shaped bodies. Most were a few inches long, although one species is known to have attained a length of 0.6 meters (2 feet).
see also Phylogenetic Relationships of Major Groups.
Blaney, Walter M. How Insects Live. London: Elsevier-Phaidon, 1976.
Brusca, Richard C., and Gary J. Brusca. Invertebrates. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 1990.
Corti, Walter Robert. Butterflies and Moths. New York: Odyssey Press, 1964.
Dunca, Winifred. Webs in the Wind: The Habits of Web-Weaving Spiders. New York: Ronald Press Company, 1949.
Evans, Arthur V. An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996.
Foelix, Rainer F. Biology of Spiders. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982.
Fortey, Richard A. Trilobite!: An Eyewitness of Evolution. New York: Alfred Knopf, 2000.
Friedlander, Cecil Paul. The Biology of Insects. New York: Pica Press, 1977.
Gauld, Ian David, and Barry Bolton, eds. The Hymenoptera. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Gould, James L., and William T. Keeton. Biological Science, 6th ed. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1996.
Hickman, Cleveland P., Larry S. Roberts, and Allan Larson. Animal Diversity. Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown, 1994.
Holldobler, Bert, and Edward O. Wilson. The Ants. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.
Wade, Nicholas, ed. The Science Times Book of Insects. New York: Lyons Press, 1998.
An arthropod is an invertebrate (an animal without a backbone) that has jointed legs and a segmented body. Arthropods are the world's oldest creatures and the most successful invertebrate group. The phylum Arthropoda contains nearly 1,000,000 species and is therefore the largest in the kingdom Animalia. It is estimated that arthropods account for 75 percent of all the animals on Earth. They range from dust mites to huge crabs.
EXTERNAL STRUCTURE OF ARTHROPODS
The name arthropod is translated as "jointed foot" but it is really a jointed or segmented body that is most characteristic of an arthropod. Since all arthropods have an exoskeleton, which is a hard covering that surrounds the outside of an animal's body, their outer skeleton cannot consist of a single solid piece or they would never be able to move about with any flexibility or speed. A tough covering that is composed of over-lapping plates (linked together by tough but flexible hinge joints) allows the arthropod to bend, twist, and move about with great freedom. The same applies to any appendages (legs, arms, tails, pincers) an arthropod may have; these too are made up of tough but flexible joints that allow them to maneuver easily over most surfaces. Whether a lobster or a beetle, most of the arthropod body is covered by an exoskeleton called a cuticle. This protects its soft tissues from predators and disease and supports its entire body. The cuticle is made of a protein called anthropodin, and a carbohydrate called chitin that together produce a tough and flexible covering. This exoskeleton can vary immensely. It may consist of the delicate and flexible wing of an insect or to the heavy and thick shell of a lobster. The major drawback of an exoskeleton is that it makes growth or physical expansion difficult. Since chitin is not living tissue, it cannot expand, and must instead be shed and regrown when an animal's body gets larger. This periodic shedding is called molting and occurs when an arthropod splits its exoskeleton and walks out of it to later form another. During this stage an arthropod is especially vulnerable to attack. The soft-shelled crabs that people eat and enjoy are actually hard-shelled crabs that are caught while molting.
INTERNAL STRUCTURE OF ARTHROPODS
Inside their suit of armor, all arthropods are basically the same. All have a nervous system made up of a brain, simple eyes, and nerves that connect to a long nerve cord running the length of their body. This allows them to perceive and react to their environment. Arthropods that live on land breathe through a tracheal system rather than through lungs. This system consists of narrow, air-filled tubes in their outer skeletons called tracheae that branch into smaller tubes inside the body and directly supply each cell with the oxygen it needs. Water-living arthropods breath with gills, located sometimes on their bodies and other times on their legs. Their circulatory system is an open one, meaning that blood flows freely throughout their body, pumped by a simple heart. Digestion always begins with a mouth and continues into a single long gut that runs the length of their body. Excretion of waste takes place from a separate opening. Most arthropods reproduce sexually (through the union of male sperm and female eggs), although a few species have both male and female organs. Most females lay their eggs in a protected place where they eventually develop into larvae.
TYPES OF ARTHROPODS
Crustaceans. Arthropods are classified by biologists according to the number of legs, antennae, and body regions they have. There are therefore five main groupings: crustaceans, arachnids, insects, centipedes, and millipedes. A crustacean has compound eyes, several pairs of legs (four or more), and two pairs of antennae, with a body divided into two main parts. There are about 32,000 species of crustaceans (lobsters, crayfish, crabs) who get their name from the hard case or "crust" they wear. Crustaceans eat other invertebrates, almost always live in water, and vary greatly in size. A few crustaceans, like the wood louse (also called pill bug), live on land.
Arachnids. The arachnids, which include spiders, mites, ticks, scorpions, and horseshoe crabs, have only four pairs of walking legs and no compound eyes. Their bodies have two main regions. Most live on land and feed on insects and other small animals. Most are harmless although some species are poisonous.
Insects. Insects are the most successful invertebrates on land and make up the largest class of arthropods. Well-known examples are bees, ants, grasshoppers, butterflies, moths, and the housefly. Insects live in nearly every habitat on Earth and total at least 800,000 species. All insects have a segmented body that is divided into three regions (head, thorax, and abdomen). The head contains the mouthparts and sense organs (often compound eyes); the thorax (the part of an arthropod's body where the legs are attached) has three pairs of legs or one or two pairs of wings.
Centipedes and Millipedes. The last two arthropod groups, centipedes and millipedes, both have cylindrical segmented bodies with many joined legs and antennae. The main difference between the two is that centipedes are poisonous and have one pair of legs attached to each segment. Millipedes have two pairs on each body segment. Both live in dark, damp places, but centipedes capture and eat other invertebrates, while millipedes feed mainly on decaying plant material.
BENEFICIAL AND HARMFUL
Arthropods are an extremely diverse group of invertebrates. They crawl, swim, run, and fly. They produce honey, silk, and other valuable products and provide the main meal for many of the fish that humans eat. They pollinate flowers and crops and recycle soil nutrients. Although beneficial, they can also be harmful. They can cause illness and even death to humans with their poison, and they can destroy our crops. Overall, however, arthropods are an integral part of many ecosystems (an area in which living things interact with each other and the environment), most of which would collapse without them.
Arthropods are invertebrate (without a backbone) animals of the phylum Arthropoda that have a segmented body, jointed legs, and a tough outer covering or exoskeleton. They include insects, crustaceans (lobsters, crabs, shrimp, crayfish), millipedes, centipedes, horseshoe crabs, arachnids (spiders, ticks, and mites) and sea spiders. Together, arthropods comprise the largest and most varied group of invertebrates on Earth.
The bodies of arthropods are divided into different segments, each having a specialized role. The segments have numerous paired, jointed appendages (legs, antennae, claws, and external mouth parts) that serve many varied functions. The exoskeleton acts as a protective covering to the underlying segmented body. It also provides an attachment for muscles and a barrier to water loss for animals living on land. It is made mostly of chitin (pronounced KIE-tuhn), a rigid, complex carbohydrate, and is usually covered by a hardened, waxy cuticle. The cuticle acts as a hinge between segments, allowing the body to bend and move to the right or left. Periodically, the rigid exoskeleton is shed in a process called molting. The temporarily soft animal then swells in size, and its new, larger exoskeleton hardens.
Arthropods are divided into chelicerates (pronounced kih-LIH-suhruhts), meaning "claw-horned ones," and mandibulates, meaning "jawed ones." The bodies of chelicerates are divided into two parts: a fused head and thorax, and an abdomen. They have no antennae, and most have four pairs of jointed legs. They are named for their first pair of appendages, which are modified as clawlike fangs used for feeding. The chelicerates include the arachnids, the marine horseshoe crabs, and the sea spiders.
The mandibulates have one or two pairs of appendages that function as antennae on their head, with the next pair modified as jaws for feeding. Included in this group are the crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, crayfish), the millipedes and centipedes, and the insects. The body of insects
is divided into three regions: a head, a thorax, and a clearly segmented abdomen. The thorax usually has three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings attached to it. Centipedes and millipedes have a head and a narrow, segmented trunk, the former having one pair of legs per segment and the latter having two. Crustaceans have many different body shapes. In most, the head and thorax are fused and separate from the abdomen. Their segmented bodies are often hidden by their hard outer shell.
Arthropods usually have more than one pair of eyes, which may include both simple and compound pairs. (A compound eye is made up of many separate units for receiving light, each with its own lens.) Breathing in land-arthropods is usually accomplished through air tubes called tracheae. Oxygen enters the air tubes from the outside through small openings in the body and is distributed to all the tissues. Arachnids, such as spiders, also breathe through book lungs, thin flaps of tissue arranged like the pages of a book. Arthropods that live in water generally breathe through gills.
Arthropods begin as eggs and can follow several different life cycles, depending on the group. Some insects hatch as miniature adults, while others hatch as nymphs and develop by stages into adults. Still others hatch as larvae and enter a resting stage as pupae, during which they may be enclosed in a cocoon and go through internal changes before emerging as adults. During their various developmental stages, known as metamorphosis, arthropods may shed their outer covering several times (molt).
Arthropods are of ecological importance because of their sheer numbers and extreme diversity. More than 874,000 living species of arthropods have been identified, making up more than 80 percent of all named species of animals. However, it is estimated that many more thousands of arthropods exist that have not yet been named. Most of these unnamed species are small beetles and other insects, and most of these occur in old-growth tropical rain forests—areas that have not yet been well explored.
Arthropods occupy an enormous variety of Earth's habitats. Most species of crustaceans live in water (that is, are aquatic), although a few such as wood lice and land crabs occur in moist habitats on land. The spiders, mites, scorpions, and other arachnids are almost entirely land animals, as are the extremely diverse insects.
Arthropods are both harmful and helpful to humans. A few species are transmitters of bacteria or viruses that cause diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, and Lyme disease. Scorpions, some spiders, and bees and wasps have poison glands and can hurt or even (though rarely) kill people by injecting poison through stingers. Some arthropods are a nutritious source of food in many parts of the world, and insects play an important role in pollination (a process necessary for production in many plants).
[See also Arachnids; Crustaceans; Insects ]
Arthropods are invertebrates such as insects, spiders and other arachnids, and crustaceans that comprise the phylum Arthropoda. The phylum Arthropoda includes three major classes—the Insecta, Arachnida, and Crustacea.
Arthropods are characterized by their external skeleton (exoskeleton), which is made mostly of chitin. Chitin is a complex, rigid carbohydrate usually covered by a waxy, waterproof cuticle. This integument is important in reducing water loss in terrestrial habitats, in providing protection, and in providing a rigid skeleton against which muscles can work. The exoskeleton is segmented, which allows for easy movement of the body, and there are numerous paired, segmented appendages, such as legs, antennae, and external mouth parts. Periodically, the entire rigid exoskeleton is shed; the temporarily soft animal swells in size; and its new, larger exoskeleton hardens.
Most arthropods have compound eyes, each with numerous lenses capable of forming complex, composite images. Arthropods have various mechanisms for the exchange of respiratory gases which, depending on the group, include gills, chambered structures known as book lungs, tracheal tubes, and various moist areas of the body surface.
Most arthropods exhibit sexual dimorphism; males look distinctly different from the females, at least in the appearance of their external genitalia. Arthropods have internal fertilization, and they lay eggs. Arthropods have a complex life cycle, generally involving eggs, a juvenile larval stage, and the adult form, with complex metamorphoses occurring during the transitions between these stages. In some insects, there is an additional stage between the larva and the adult, known as a pupa.
Arthropods are extremely diverse in species richness. Almost 875,000 living species of arthropods have been recognized and named, comprising more than 80% of all identified animal species. Many more species likely remain to be discovered. The scientific consensus is that these yet-to-be-discovered species are small beetles and other inconspicuous arthropods, and most of these occur in old-growth tropical rainforests, a biome that has not yet been well explored and studied by taxonomists and ecologists.
Species of arthropods utilize an enormous variety of Earth’s habitats. Most species of crustaceans are aquatic, although a few, such as woodlice and land crabs, occur in moist habitats on land. The spiders, mites, scorpions, and other arachnids are almost entirely terrestrial animals, as are the extremely diverse insects.
Some species of arthropods are very important to humans. A few species are important as vectors in the transmission of microbial diseases, such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, plague, Chagas disease, and Lyme disease. Some arthropods are venomous, for example, scorpions, some spiders, and bees and wasps, and can hurt or kill people by single, or multiple, stinging. Some arthropods are a highly nutritious source of food for people, as is the case with lobsters, crayfish, shrimp, many species of crabs, and some insects.
However, the most critical importance of arthropods relates to the extremely diverse and beneficial ecological functions that they carry out. Arthropods play an important role in nutrient cycling and other aspects of ecological food webs. Earth’s ecosystems would be in a great deal of trouble if there was any substantial decline in the myriad species of arthropods in the biosphere.
Arthropods are invertebrates such as insects , spiders and other arachnids , and crustaceans that comprise the phylum Arthropoda. The phylum Arthropoda includes three major classes—the Insecta, Arachnida, and Crustacea .
Arthropods are characterized by their external skeleton, or exoskeleton, made mostly of chitin, a complex, rigid carbohydrate usually covered by a waxy, waterproof cuticle. This integument is important in reducing water loss in terrestrial habitats, in providing protection, and in providing a rigid skeleton against which muscles can work in order to develop motion of the animal or in its body parts. The exoskeleton is segmented, which allows for easy movement of the body, and there are numerous paired, segmented appendages, such as legs, antennae, and external mouth parts. Periodically, the entire rigid exoskeleton is shed, the temporarily soft animal swells in size, and its new, larger exoskeleton hardens.
Most arthropods have compound eyes, each with numerous lenses capable of forming complex, composite images. Arthropods have various mechanisms for the exchange of respiratory gases which, depending on the group, include gills, chambered structures known as book lungs, tracheal tubes, and various moist areas of the body surface.
Most arthropods exhibit sexual dimorphism, in that the male animals look distinctly different from the females, at least in the appearance of their external genitalia. Arthropods have internal fertilization , and they lay eggs. Arthropods have a complex life cycle. This generally involves eggs, a juvenile larval stage, and the adult form, with complex metamorphosis occurring during the transitions between these stages. In some insects, there is an additional stage between the larva and the adult, known as a pupa.
Arthropods are extremely diverse in species richness. Approximately 874,000 living species of arthropods have been named, comprising more than 80% of all named species of animals. However, some estimates predict large numbers of species of arthropods that have not yet been described and named by biologists. Most of these unnamed species are small beetles and other inconspicuous arthropods, and most of these occur in old-growth tropical rainforests, a biome that has not yet been well explored and studied by taxonomists and ecologists.
Species of arthropods utilize an enormous variety of Earth's habitats. Most species of crustaceans are aquatic, although a few, such as woodlice and land crabs , occur in moist habitats on land. The spiders, mites , scorpions, and other arachnids are almost entirely terrestrial animals, as are the extremely diverse insects.
Some species of arthropods are very important to humans. A few species are important as vectors in the transmission of microbial diseases, such as malaria , yellow fever , encephalitis , plague, Chagas disease , and Lyme disease . Some arthropods are venomous, and can hurt or kill people by single or more multiple stinging, for example, scorpions, some spiders, and bees andwasps . Some arthropods are a highly nutritious source of food for people, as is the case of lobsters , crayfish , shrimp , many species of crabs, and some insects.
However, the most critical importance of arthropods relates to the extremely diverse and beneficial ecological functions that they carry out. Arthropods play an important role in nutrient cycling and other aspects of ecological food webs. Earth's ecosystems would be in a great deal of trouble if there was any substantial decline in the myriad species of arthropods in the biosphere .
Arthropods are a phylum within the animal kingdom. They include four classes: Chelicerates (such as spiders, mites, ticks, scorpions, and horseshoe crabs), the extinct Trilobites, Crustaceans (such as lobsters, crabs, and shrimp), and Uniramians (millipedes, centipedes, and the most numerous group of all, the insects). The defining features of arthropods are their exoskeletons (hard outer coverings), segmented bodies, and jointed appendages , from which they derive their name (arthro means "joint," pod means "foot").
The exoskeleton, secreted by the outer tissue layer, is composed of protein and a nitrogenous carbohydrate called chitin , which in crustaceans is fortified with calcium carbonate crystals. To grow, most arthropods either shed (molt) the exoskeleton periodically or grow as soft-bodied larvae before undergoing metamorphosis into the adult, hard-bodied form. Some arthropods (such as millipedes) have legs on nearly every segment. However, most arthropods have evolved reduced numbers of legs, with many other appendages taking on highly specialized roles. Examples include the antennae and hardened mouth parts on head segments, and egg-clasping ovipositors on rear segments.
Arthropods are the most numerous of all animal phyla, both in numbers of species and numbers of individuals, primarily due to insect diversity and numbers. There are at least one million recorded species of arthropods, with the actual number probably ten or even twenty times that amount.
see also Arachnid; Crustacean; Insect