Marine scientists identify lobsters' ancestors

Feb 26, 2014 by Evelyn Perez

Scientists have long believed that lobster-like crustaceans first appeared on planet Earth about 360 million years ago. But FIU marine scientist Heather Bracken-Grissom contends the ancestor of our favorite mealtime decapod actually may have started roaming the planet at least 12 million years earlier.

Using fossil records and DNA testing, a team of international scientists led by Bracken-Grissom has determined the first lobster-like crustacean appeared on planet Earth approximately 372-409 million years ago.

"This is the most complete study of lobsters to date. One hundred and seventy-three species were analyzed, including commercially important species such as Maine lobster, Florida's spiny lobsters and the redswamp crayfish, which Louisiana is famous for," Bracken-Grissom said. "We also included some very rare species, recently discovered in the 1970s, who had never been included in an analysis before. It was interesting to include them because we got to see where they fell in the lobster tree of life."

The study also examined the among lobsters, or how different species are related to each other. Bracken-Grissom's study found present crayfish distributions mirror the break up of the supercontinent Pangaea and Gondwana, the two southern supercontinents. The study also uncovered cryptic, or hidden diversity, with the discovery of several potential new species within lobsters.

"It's important to understand their evolutionary relationships, since that has implications for biodiversity estimates and increased evolutionary understanding," Bracken-Grissom said. "It also has implications for conservation efforts, fisheries management and aquaculture management."

Commercial fisheries and aquaculture rely on spiny, slipper and reef to bring in billions of dollars each year for human consumption and aquarium trade. Lobsters also contribute to the cultural livelihood of many communities that celebrate these delicacies through festivals, crayfish boils and other social activities.

Explore further: The science behind spite

More information: Heather D. Bracken-Grissom, Shane T. Ahyong, Richard D. Wilkinson, Rodney M. Feldmann, Carrie E. Schweitzer, Jesse W. Breinholt, Matthew Bendall, Ferran Palero, Tin-Yam Chan, Darryl L. Felder, Rafael Robles, Ka-Hou Chu, Ling-Ming Tsang, Dohyup Kim, Joel W. Martin, and Keith A. Crandall. "The Emergence of the Lobsters: Phylogenetic Relationships, Morphological Evolution and Divergence Time Comparisons of an Ancient Group (Decapoda: Achelata, Astacidea, Glypheidea, Polychelida)." Syst Biol first published online February 20, 2014 DOI: 10.1093/sysbio/syu008

Related Stories

Which came first, hermits or kings?

Aug 27, 2013

Heather Bracken-Grissom, marine sciences professor in the FIU Department of Biological Sciences, has helped answer one of the most debated questions among evolutionary biologists: Did the hermit crab evolve ...

Lobster shell disease creeping northward to Maine

Aug 11, 2013

A shell disease that has plagued the southern New England lobster industry by making lobsters unsightly and in some cases unmarketable appears to be creeping northward to the lobster-rich grounds off Maine.

Recommended for you

Producing jet fuel compounds from fungus

8 hours ago

Washington State University researchers have found a way to make jet fuel from a common black fungus found in decaying leaves, soil and rotting fruit. The researchers hope the process leads to economically ...

New technology maps human genome in days

9 hours ago

The two 3-by-1-inch glass chips held the unfathomable amount of genetic information contained in 16 human genomes. Last week, a technician placed the chips - called flow cells - in a new genetic sequencing ...

Just like humans, dolphins have social networks

13 hours ago

They may not be on Facebook or Twitter, but dolphins do, in fact, form highly complex and dynamic networks of friends, according to a recent study by scientists at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) ...

Norway plans to slash subsidies to fur farms

13 hours ago

Norwegian fur farmers denounced Tuesday a government proposal to slash financial support to the controversial industry and warned that it could lead to farm closures in vulnerable rural areas.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.