T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Hoppers (Land) Terrestrial amphipods

Domain: Eukarya
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Superorder: Peracarida
Order: Amphipoda
Common Name: Hoppers, Landhopper, Terrestrial amphipods ,lawn shrimp

Terrestrial amphipods are land Crustacea unique to those lands that once formed part of Gondwanaland or islands of the Indo-Pacific region. Zoologically and biogeographically they are very interesting in being one of the few groups to have conquered land. They live in land, in forests of all types, and in damp grassland, both indigenous and adventive. Where-ever it is damp enough and leaf litter is available, there will be amphipods. Terrestrial amphipods eat dead plant matter, especially lignocellulosics. They disrupt the structure of wood by rasping and chewing with their mouthparts. They are extremely efficient grinders, thus they disrupt the structure of wood and expose its constituents to digestion. They can digest cellulose and hemicellulose, but not lignin. Thus, 80% of the plant wastes can be utilised by these organisms. In the forest they are major routes for the mineralisation of plant wastes, so are very important in the long-termed health of the forest. Life plant material is not eaten. They are active at night .

An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton (external skeleton), a segmented body, and jointed appendages. Arthropods are members of the Phylum Arthropoda. Arthropods are characterized by their jointed limbs and cuticles, which are mainly made of a-chitin; the cuticles of crustaceans are also biomineralized with calcium carbonate. The rigid cuticle inhibits growth, so arthropods replace it periodically by molting. The arthropod body plan consists of repeated segments, each with a pair of appendages.

There are over 1,170,000 described species, making up more than 80% of all described living species, and are one of only two animal groups that are really successful in dry environments – the other being the amniotes.

The females bear their eggs on the underside of their body in a special brood chamber. The eggs hatch in one to three weeks. The young amphipods resemble the adults and leave the pouch during the next one to eight days when the female has her first molt during mating. The molt usually takes about one hour. Most species complete their life cycle (egg to adult) in one year. the young have direct development. Some species are small, ranging up to 3 mm in length. Most average about 12 to 15 mm in length.