Switching Skeletons: Hydrostatic Support in Molting Crabs

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Science  11 Jul 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5630, pp. 209-210
DOI: 10.1126/science.1085987

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Skeletal support systems are essential for support, movement, muscular antagonism, and locomotion. Crustaceans shed their rigid exoskeleton at each molt yet are still capable of forceful movement. We hypothesize that the soft water-inflated body of newly molted crabs may rely on a hydrostatic skeleton, similar to that of worms and polyps. We measured internal hydrostatic pressure and the force exerted during claw adduction and observed a strong correlation between force and hydrostatic pressure, consistent with hydrostatic skeletal support. This alternation between the two basic skeletal types may be widespread among arthropods.

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