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The Amphipods of the Pacific Northwest

Amphipods, Fish, Vancouver Island, BC Coastal Region, Pacific Northwest
Amphipods, Photo By Bud Logan

Amphipoda is an order of crustaceans with no carapace and laterally compressed bodies. Amphipods range in size from 1 to over 300 mm and are for the most part, scavengers. There are more than 9,000 amphipod species so far described. They are mostly saltwater dwellers but can found in freshwater environments, with some 1900 species found there, the order also includes the beach hoppers such as talitrus saltator.

The body of an amphipod is divided into 3 segments, head, thorax and abdomen. The head is joined to the thorax and has two pairs of antennae along with one pair of compound eyes. The thorax and abdomen are usually quite distinct and bear different kinds of legs, they are typically laterally compressed, and there is no carapace. The thorax bears eight pairs of appendages, the first of which are used as accessory mouth parts, the next four pairs are directed forwards, and the last three pairs are directed backwards. The abdomen is divided into two parts, one with swimming legs and the other with back legs for jumping.

Beach Hopper, Fish, Vancouver Island, BC Coastal Region, Pacific Northwest
Beach Hopper, Photo By Bud Logan

Mature females bear a brood pouch, which holds her eggs, where the male will fertilize them. They stay in this pouch until they are ready to hatch. As a female ages, she produces more eggs in each brood. The eggs will hatch directly into a juvenile form and sexual maturity is reached in about six months.

Some Amphipods can get to be pretty big, the one on this page were photographed by Bud up at San Josef Bay, on Northwest Vancouver Island. It was about 2 cm long, quite big for an amphipod for sure. I have seen some on the west coast that have been even larger. This one was called a beach hopper and they are very common on the west coast shores of Northern Vancouver Island.

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