Palaeoebiological implications of cuticle morphology, microstructure and formation in modern and fossil Daira (Decapoda, Brachyura, Dairoidea)


The origin and function of peculiar mushroom-shaped cuticular structures in some decapod crustaceans remains unknown. This ornamentation has appeared several times in widely disparate clades (in podotreme and heterotreme crabs, and pagurids). These structures are analysed in the modern genus Daira and compared with fossil material from the Eocene of Huesca and the Miocene of Alicante and Mallorca. A morphological and petrographic study is carried out using conventional microscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy to understand the microstructure in modern and fossil representatives. This provides a clear view of the mushroom-like structures that cover the carapace of Daira and the distribution of the different layers of the exoskeleton. The results reveal a complex morphology, which involves all layers of the cuticle, with changes in the thickness of the exocuticle in different areas, and the presence of conical structures that especially affect the outer layers. These convolutions form a network of channels connected to the outside by pores. Finally, possible anti-predatory functions of these complex structures are proposed.

Palabras clave

Arthropoda, benthonic, crab, cuticle, reef, anti-predatory structures

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