Sometimes called a “sand flea,” Parhyale hawaiensis is actually a tiny crustacean that evolved 240 million years ago. It’s considered the most genetically tractable research organism among crustaceans and is studied extensively by the Patel Lab at the MBL. Recent research by MBL scientists revealed that insect wings evolved from a lobe on the legs of their crustacean ancestors. In living crustaceans like Parhayle hawaiensis, these leg lobes form body wall armor, but as insects transitioned to land-dwelling about 300 million years ago, the leg lobe plates evolved into wings.
- Parhyale hawaiensis evolved approximately 240 million years ago, about the same time as the dinosaurs.
- Amphipods like Parhyale hawaiensis can be found in every aquatic environment in the world, from beaches and lakes to the below-freezing Antarctic Ocean and even the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean.
- Amphipods eat detritus such as mangrove leaves, seaweed, and even wood. They are like the goats of the sea!
(ID Card Photo Credit: Nipam Patel)
More about Parhyale and the MBL
How the Insect Got Its Wings: Scientists (At Last) Tell the Tale | MBL.edu
Tiny Creatures, Huge Discoveries: Nipam Patel | UChicago Big Brains Podcast
Hox Research | Nipam Patel Lab
Bruce, H.S., Patel, N.H. (2020) Knockout of crustacean leg patterning genes suggests that insect wings and body walls evolved from ancient leg segments. Nat Ecol Evol doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-01349-0
Sun D.A., Patel N.H. (2019) The amphipod crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis: An emerging comparative model of arthropod development, evolution, and regeneration. doi.org/10.1002/wdev.355
Bruce, H. S., Patel, N. H. (2018). Insect wings and body wall evolved from ancient leg segments. BioRxiv, 244541. doi.org/10.1101/244541
Serano, J. M., Martin, A., Liubicich, D. M., Jarvis, E., Bruce, H. S., La, K., Browne, W. E., Grimwood, J., & Patel, N. H. (2016). Comprehensive analysis of Hox gene expression in the amphipod crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis. Developmental Biology. doi.org/10.1016/J.YDBIO.2015.10.029
Martin, A., Serano, J. M., Jarvis, E., Bruce, H. S., Wang, J., Ray, S., Barker, C. A., O’Connell, L. C., & Patel, N. H. (2016). CRISPR/Cas9 Mutagenesis Reveals Versatile Roles of Hox Genes in Crustacean Limb Specification and Evolution. Current Biology. doi.org/10.1016/J.CUB.2015.11.021
Ecdysozoans are the largest group within the animal kingdom and comprises arthropods (insects, spiders, and crustaceans), as well as nematodes such as roundworms. All organisms in the Ecdysozoan superphylum have an exoskeleton and shed or molt that cuticle layer in order to grow. Learn more
Meet the Other Ecdysozoan Organisms
What is MBL March Madness?
Based on the March Madness NCAA basketball tournament, during MBL March Madness, popular MBL organisms face off for your votes. YOU have the opportunity to decide what organism is crowned victorious by voting for your favorite organisms in a series of head-to-head match-ups. Voting will take place on the MBL social media channels from March 29 – April 7.
Learn more and download a bracket at mbl.edu/march-madness