Convergent evolution of mouthparts morphology between Siphonostomatoida and a new genus of deep-sea Aegisthidae Giesbrecht, 1893 (Copepoda: Harpacticoida)

  • Nancy F. Mercado-SalasEmail author
  • Sahar Khodami
  • P. Martínez Arbizu
Original Paper


A great diversity of the basal harpacticoid family Aegisthidae Giesbrecht, 1893 is found in the deep-sea benthic and hyperbenthic environments. Some members of this family have developed adaptations to dig into the sediment, while others have colonized hyperbenthic waters; however, no aegisthid associated with a vertebrate or an invertebrate host has yet been reported. During a sampling campaign aimed at evaluating the abyssal copepod fauna of the polymetallic province in the North East Pacific, we discovered a striking new genus of Aegisthidae which exhibits convergent evolution of mouthpart morphology with that of siphonostomatoid copepods. Siphonis gen. nov. has a labrum modified into a long oral cone similar to that found in ectoparasitic species of the primitive siphonostomatoid family, Asterocheridae Giesbrecht, 1899. The mandible, maxillule and maxilla of Siphonis gen. nov. are also modified into siphonostomatoid-like structures; however, some ground pattern characters of the family Aegisthidae are retained. The new genus is discussed and compared with members of the derived taxon Palinarthra, Seifried, 2003 which comprises all those harpacticoid families with an incipient oral cone and a slightly elongated mandibular gnathobase. Two species of the new genus are described herein and were verified by molecular evidence. Siphonis gen. nov. is placed within the subfamily Cerviniopseinae Brotskaya, 1963 and represents a third major shift in the lifestyle of aegisthid copepods, from benthic and hyperbenthic to associated forms (probably with sponges or cnidarians).


Oral cone  Associated copepod Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone Manganese nodules Cerviniopseinae 























first to sixth thoracopod





We appreciate the assistance at sea given by the crew of RV Sonne. The authors acknowledge funding from BMBF contract 03 F0707E. This publication has the number 54 from the Senckenberg am Meer Metabarcoding and Molecular Laboratory and the number 40 that uses data from the Senckenberg am Meer Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope Facility. We would like to thank Prof. Dr. Boxshall and Dr. Ivanenko for their helpful comments and suggestions on the manuscript.


The EcoResponse cruise SO-239 with RV Sonne was financed by the German Ministry of Education and Science BMBF as a contribution to the European project JPI-Oceans “Ecological Aspects of Deep-Sea Mining.” Funding from BMBF was under the contract 03 F0707E.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of Interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed by the authors.

Sampling and field studies

Permits for sampling and observational field studies are not applicable.

Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are available in GenBank.


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy F. Mercado-Salas
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sahar Khodami
    • 1
  • P. Martínez Arbizu
    • 1
  1. 1.German Centre for Marine Biodiversity Research (DZMB), Senckenberg am Meer WilhelmshavenWilhelmshavenGermany

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