Contributions to Zoology, 79 (2) – 2010Junzeng Xue; Yan Liu; Neil Cumberlidge; Huixian Wu: First report of developmental changes inside the eggs of the Chinese freshwater crab, Sinopotamon yangtsekiense Bott, 1967 (Potamoidea, Potamidae), with comments on its evolutionary significance

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Abstract

This paper focuses on the developmental changes that take place inside the eggs of the semi-terrestrial freshwater crab, Sinopotamon yangtsekiense, from Qiantang River in Zhejiang Province, China. The egg consists of two layers, a thick outer membrane and a thin inner membrane that encloses the fluid-filled embryonic sac. Development in this species took up to 77 days, after which the free-living juvenile hatchling crab emerged from the egg. During development the embryo underwent a series of morphological changes that corresponded to the free-living larval stages of marine crabs, and the yolk mass decreased in size and changed color (from creamy pale yellow, to orange, and finally grey). The eggs remained attached to the pleopods in the female’s abdominal brood pouch during development and showed a great deal of independence from water. Embryos developed normally whether they were immersed in water or in air. The implications of this adaptation for freshwater crab evolution are discussed.