Cellulose digestion and phenol oxidation in coastal isopods (Crustacea: Isopoda)
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In order to test three hypotheses on digestive constraints that may have affected the colonization of land by isopods, two marine isopods and one semi-terrestrial species were screened for their ability to oxidize phenolic compounds and digest cellulose in natural and artificial diets. Ligia pallasii (Isopoda: Oniscidea) and Gnorimosphaeroma oregonense (Isopoda: Sphaeromatidea) oxidized dietary phenolics, but Idotea wosnesenskii (Isopoda: Valvifera) did not, even though it feeds on seaweeds that are rich in phenolics. All three species were able to digest some cellulose, but this ability was least developed in the marine phytophagous species, Idotea wosnesenskii, and best developed in the semi-terrestrial L. pallasii. After reducing the number of endosymbiotic bacteria in the hepatopancreas (midgut digestive gland) by feeding antibiotics, cellulose digestion in L. pallasii was significantly reduced. Our results are consistent with the hypotheses that (1) the ability to oxidize phenolics is absent in phytophagous marine isopods, but present in saprophagous marine and semi-terrestrial species, (2) the ability to digest cellulose was an important pre-adaptation facilitating a fully terrestrial life-style in isopods, and (3) endosymbiotic bacteria in the hepatopancreas aid digestion in terrestrial isopods, and to a lesser degree in semi-terrestrial species, but not in marine isopods.
KeywordsOxidation Cellulose Phenol Phenolic Compound Digestive Gland
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