Terrestrial decapods consume a wide variety of plant and animal material. The potential adaptations of carnivorous, omnivorous, and herbivorous terrestrial crustaceans were studied by examining the functional morphology of the gastric mill. Two closely related species from each feeding preference group were examined to identify which features of the mill were due to phylogeny and which were due to adaptation. The morphology of the gastric mill matched the diet well; the gastric mills of the carnivorous species (Geograpsus grayi and Geograpsus crinipes) possessed a blunt, rounded medial tooth and flattened lateral teeth with a longitudinal grinding groove. These features make them well suited to a carnivorous diet of soft animal tissue as well as hard material, such as arthropod exoskeleton. In contrast, the mill of the herbivorous gecarcinids (Gecarcoidea natalis and Discoplax hirtipes) consisted of a medial tooth with sharp transverse ridges and lateral teeth with sharp interlocking cusps and ridges and no grinding surface. These features would efficiently shred fibrous plant material. The morphology of the mill of the omnivorous coenobitids (Coenobita perlatus and Birgus latro) was more generalized toward a mixed diet. However, the mill of B. latro was more adapted to deal with highly nutritious food items, such as nuts and heavily calcified decapods. Its mill possessed lateral teeth with extended ridges, which sat close to the calcified cardiopyloric valve to form a flattened floor. Hard items trapped in the mill would be crushed against this surface by the medial tooth.
Published Online: 21 Jul 2009
Field of Research
060808 Invertebrate Biology
Socio Economic Objective
970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences