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Diversity of developmental patterns in achelate lobsters—today and in the Mesozoic


Modern achelate lobsters, slipper and spiny lobsters, have a specific post-embryonic developmental pattern with the following phases: phyllosoma, nisto (slipper lobsters) or puerulus (spiny lobsters), juvenile and adult. The phyllosoma is a peculiar larva, which transforms through a metamorphic moult into another larval form, the nisto or puerulus which largely resembles the juvenile. Unlike the nisto and puerulus, the phyllosoma is characterised by numerous morphological differences to the adult, e.g. a thin head shield, elongate appendages, exopods on these appendages and a special claw. Our reinvestigation of the 85 million years old fossil “Eryoneicus sahelalmae” demonstrates that it represents an unusual type of achelatan lobster larva, characterised by a mixture of phyllosoma and post-phyllosoma characters. We ascribe it to its own genus: Polzicaris nov. gen. We study its significance by comparisons with other cases of Mesozoic fossil larvae also characterised by a mixture of characters. Accordingly, all these larvae are interpreted as ontogenetic intermediates between phyllosoma and post-phyllosoma morphology. Remarkably, most of the larvae show a unique mixture of retained larval and already developed post-larval features. Considering the different—and incompatible—mixture of characters of each of these larvae and their wide geographical and temporal distribution, we interpret all these larvae as belonging to distinct species. The particular character combinations in the different larvae make it currently difficult to reconstruct an evolutionary scenario with a stepwise character acquisition. Yet, it can be concluded that a larger diversity of larval forms and developmental patterns occurred in Mesozoic than in modern faunas.

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Gideon T. Haug, Greifswald, is thanked for assisting during photographing the specimens. We thank Roger Frattigiani, Laichingen and Eric A. Lazo-Wasem, Yale Peabody Museum, New Haven, for kindly providing specimens for this study. JTH was kindly supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation with a Feodor Lynen Return Fellowship. Funding for CH was kindly provided by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The visit of JTH to the MNHN was funded by a grant from the European Commission's (FP 6) Integrated Infrastructure Initiative programme SYNTHESYS (FR-TAF 2590). This work is part of the project “Palaeo-Evo-Devo of Malacostraca” kindly supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) under HA 6300/3-1. JTH and CH would like to thank Steffen Harzsch, Greifswald, for his support. This paper is a contribution to the UMR CNRS 7207 Centre de Recherche sur la Paléobiodiversité et les Paléoenvironnements and to the Département Histoire de la Terre of the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris.

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Correspondence to Joachim T. Haug.

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Communicated by S. Roth

Electronic supplementary material

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Online Resource 1

Part (a) and counterpart (b) of Polzicaris sahelalmae, MNHN.F.B18905 (JPEG 81 kb)

High resolution image (TIFF 14856 kb)

Online Resource 2

Descriptive matrix of Polzicaris sahelalmae with complete description (see Haug et al. 2012 for technical details) (XLS 23 kb)

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Haug, J.T., Audo, D., Charbonnier, S. et al. Diversity of developmental patterns in achelate lobsters—today and in the Mesozoic. Dev Genes Evol 223, 363–373 (2013).

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  • Fossil larvae
  • Phyllosoma
  • Sahel Alma
  • Metamorphosis
  • Palaeo-evo-devo
  • Cretaceous