, Volume 486, Issue 1, pp 19-27

Unusual sensory setae of the raptorial Branchinecta gigas (Branchiopoda: Anostraca)

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In many vernal pools, visibility is very poor because of the turbidity from suspended clay particles. For predatory species like Branchinecta gigas, these conditions can be detrimental to successful prey capture. In vernal lakes in central California, B. gigashave developed specialized hunting modes to capture anostracan prey in pools of low visibility. The position of their body, the kinematics of their locomotion, and their reduced eye size suggested the possibility of novel sensory structures on their antennae and/or their cercopods designed to enhance their prey capture abilities. Using Scanning Electron Microscopy, we investigated the presence and design of sensory setae on the antennae and cercopods of B. gigas. On both males and females, there are dense patches of sensilla along the length of the antennae. They are oriented ventrally and slightly anteriorly. These antennal setae appear to be chemosensory in structure and position; they resemble antennal setae of other branchiopods. However, the setae of the cercopods are unusual in their morphology and location on the appendage. The cercopods, which are bent over the head in the hunting position, have a linear arrangement of specialized setae on their ventral side. They are jointed setae with an anterior crown of protective spines. The setal joint only permits limited abduction either toward the head in the hunting position or ventrally when swimming. These setae appear to be mechanosensory in function and may be adaptations to a raptorial lifestyle. They correlate well with the behavioral components of hunting in B. gigasand their complex prey capture mechanism.