A recent study published in the journal Nature has revealed that insects are closely related to crustaceans such as crabs, shrimp and lobsters. In this image is a remipede (Speleonectes tulumensis
), a rare type of blind, cave-dwelling critter that is believed to be the crustacean most closely related to insects.
Insects and crustaceans have long been classified together in the anthropod family, distinguishable by their hard external shells and jointed legs. However, determining a lineage has been difficult due to the sheer volume of species that are classified as anthropods. It’s believed that anthropods make up 1.6 million of the over 1.8 million animal species that have been identified and described.
In the recent Nature study, genetic data from 75 carefully selected species were examined in an attempt to create an anthropod family tree. The researchers applied data from 62 protein-coding genes to come up with a well-supported breakdown of who falls where on the family tree. The study is hailed as a significant advancement toward a better understanding of our planet’s biodiversity.
“We’ve never really known how arthropods, the most successful animals on Earth, evolved into the diversity we see today,” explained study co-author Regina Wetzer, of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. “For me, what makes this study really exciting is getting such a solid understanding of how these animals are related, so that now we can better understand how they evolved.”