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Feeding, Reproduction, and Development of the Subterranean Peracarid Shrimp Spelaeomysis bottazzii (Lepidomysidae) from a Brackish Well in Apulia (Southeastern italy)

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Abstract A population of the ‘eyeless’ hypogean shrimp Spelaeomysis bottazzii was studied over a three-year period in a shallow brackish-water well about 1 km from the Mediterranean coast. Mature males and immature females were numerous year round, whereas breeding females and juveniles were rare. The main stages of young in the brood pouch were embryos, nauplioids, and postnauplioids; all were unpigmented, unlike the postnauplioids in a congeneric species. In this well, the free-living stages fed mainly on autotrophic micro-organisms. The accumulation of fat reserves was judged from the amount of subcuticular fat bodies and from body colour. Fat status improved with increasing body size in both sexes; seasonal variations were not significant. Only ‘fat’ specimens produced eggs. Females incubating eggs were fatter than those with larvae. Field and laboratory findings suggest that fat accumulation near the photic zone is necessary for egg formation, whereas larval incubation is very long and mostly occurs elsewhere, probably in deep groundwater under unfavourable nutritional conditions. The observed post-reproductive reduction of oöstegites may indicate a peculiar strategy to avoid a new breeding cycle before reconstitution of fat reserves. The findings on feeding and reproduction, particularly regarding fecundity and natality, are interpreted as a combination of typically hypogean features along with epigean environmental adaptations.

Affiliations: 1: Dipartimento delle Scienze Biologiche, Sezione di Zoologia, Università di Napoli Federico II, Via Mezzocannone 8, I-80134 Naples, Italy; 2: Abteilung für Ökotoxikologie, Institut für Umwelthygiene, Zentrum für Public Health, Medizinische Universität Wien, Kinderspitalgasse 15, A-1090 Vienna, Austria


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