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A comparative study on the tubes and feeding behaviour of eight species of corophioid Amphipoda and their bearing on phylogenetic relationships within the Corophioidea

I. M. T. Dixon, P. G. Moore


Observations are presented on mouthpart functional morphology, and on feeding, grooming and defaecatory behaviour of eight species of corophioid Amphipoda, viz. Corophium bonnellii, Lembos websteri, Aora gracilis, A. spinicornis, Gammaropsis nitida, Ericthonius punctatus, Jassa falcata and J. marmorata. These data are considered in relation to tube structure and amphipod posture in relation to the tube. All these species occupy double-ended cylindreical tubes made from ‘amphipod silk’ secreted by the third and fourth preraeopods, incorporating sediment and other debris to varying degrees. Uniquely among this set of species, however, E. punctatus has a tube that is architecturally distinct. It tapers along its length and has a distinctive oblique main entrance at its widest end. This end is used preferentially. The other species studied use either opening with equal facility. Such a feature is adaptive in facilitating deployment of the antennae and shielding the head of E. punctatus.

Two groupings of species are propose: group A which feed inside their tube using pleopod-induced through-tube currents, and group B which feed outside or at the entrance to their tube using external water currents. Group A includes C. bonnellii, L. websteri and the Aora species. Group B includes E. punctatus and the Jassa species. Gammaropsis nitida exhibits traits from both groups, adding weight to its perceived status as a genus representative of the stem corophioid. The ischyrocerid habit of externalizing food-gathering may be regarded as the first step along an evolutionary line leading to the rod-building podocerid types and ultimately towards the caprellids. All species examined show a degree of flexibility in their feeding habits which helps to explain the success of this taxon, which has radiated into a great diversity of aquatic biotopes.

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