The late embryonic and early post-embryonic life period of freshwater crayfish, which is the main time period of organogenesis, is poorly investigated because of the protective brooding behavior of crayfish mothers. A combination of in vitro culture, behavioral observations, and microscopic investigations of organs involved in hatching, attachment, exploration of the environment, and searching and processing of food yielded deeper insights in this important period of life. Experiments were performed with the robust parthenogenetic marbled crayfish. The following results were obtained: (1) Marbled crayfish can be raised in simple in vitro systems from 80% embryonic development to juvenile Stage 4 with up to 100% survival; (2) Hatching is prepared by chemical weakening of the egg shell and completed by levering actions of the hatchling's appendages; (3) The telson thread, a safety line that keeps the hatchling secured to the mother, is formed by secretions from the telson and the detaching inner layer of the egg case; (4) Molting Stage-1 juveniles are secured by an anal thread that results from delayed molting of the hindgut; (5) Active attachment of the hatchlings to the maternal pleopods with their 1st pereiopods is achieved by an innate fixed action pattern; (6) In vitro, juveniles are motile from Stage 2 despite incomplete development of their balance controlling statocysts. Movement pattern and social behavior vary greatly among individuals; and (7) Feeding starts in Stage 3, when the mouthparts and the gastric mill are fully developed. Onset of feeding is innate and does not require maternal contributions. In vitro culture of the isogenic marbled crayfish is recommended for broader use in research because it enables not only time and stage-specific sampling but also precisely timed experimental manipulations.
Copyright 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.