A lot of people hate little critters with a lot of legs – one of those primal fears that has some good evolutionary backing. I personally am not fond of terrestrial animals with 8 or more legs (shudder!), but am quite fond of marine crustaceans with their many legs – go figure. Determining how to teach undergraduates about crustaceans has been a challenge for me because their biology is so appendage-oriented, and students are not fond of memorizing leg numbers and names. But I learned that students can relate to the connections between form (e.g., broad and flat vs. long and thin) and function (swimming and breathing vs. walking and pinching). Jim Truman’s essay digs deeper into the fascinating differences among crustacean legs, showing that the nervous control of these different leg types is also connected to that wide variation in form and function. It makes sense that legs with complex musculature and range of motion require complex networks of nerves to operate them, but demonstrating this evolutionary trend is not easy and has benefited from the sophisticated microscopes available at FHL. And FHL has benefited from Jim being part of our research community!
Dr. Megan Dethier