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Global diversity of Isopod crustaceans (Crustacea; Isopoda) in freshwater

Authors:George D. F. Wilson

Abstract:The isopod crustaceans are diverse both morphologically and in described species numbers. Nearly 950 described species (∼9% of all isopods) live in continental waters, and possibly 1,400 species remain undescribed. The high frequency of cryptic species suggests that these figures are underestimates. Several major freshwater taxa have ancient biogeographic patterns dating from the division of the continents into Laurasia (Asellidae, Stenasellidae) and Gondwana (Phreatoicidea, Protojaniridae and Heterias). The suborder Asellota has the most described freshwater species, mostly in the families Asellidae and Stenasellidae. The suborder Phreatoicidea has the largest number of endemic genera. Other primary freshwater taxa have small numbers of described species, although more species are being discovered, especially in the southern hemisphere. The Oniscidea, although primarily terrestrial, has a small number of freshwater species. A diverse group of more derived isopods, the ‘Flabellifera’ sensu lato has regionally important species richness, such as in the Amazon River. These taxa are transitional between marine and freshwater realms and represent multiple colonisations of continental habitats. Most species of freshwater isopods species and many genera are narrow range endemics. This endemism ensures that human demand for fresh water will place these isopods at an increasing risk of extinction, as has already happened in a few documented cases.

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