Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ostracods are small crustaceans, typically around one mm in size, but varying between 0,2 to 3 mm, laterally compressed and protected by a bivalve-like, chitinous or calcareous valve or "shell". The hinge of the two valves is in the upper, dorsal region of the body.
Ecologically ostracods can be part of the zooplankton, or (most commonly) they are part of the benthos, living on or inside the upper layer of the sea floor. Some groups of ostracods are also found in fresh waters and in humid continental soils (normally in humid forests).
Ostracods are particularly useful for the biozonation of marine strata on a local or regional scale, and they are invaluable indicators of ancient shorelines, salinities and relative sea-floor depths. They have a long and well documented fossil record from the Cambrian to the present day. An outline microfaunal zonal scheme based on both foraminifera and ostracoda was compiled by M.B. Hart (1972).
The body of an ostracod is encased by two valves, which together form the duplicature. A distinction is made between the valve (hard parts) and the body with its appendages (soft parts).
Soft parts and ontogeny
The body consists of a cephalon (head), separated from the thorax by a slight constriction. The segmentation is unclear. The abdomen is regressed or absent whereas the adult gonads are relatively large. There are 5-8 pairs of appendages. The branchial plates are responsible for oxygenation.
During the ontogeny the epidermis (containing mesodermal tissue) is invaginated ventrolaterally near the cephalon/thorax area. This invagination proceeds upwards and tailwards, until the whole animal is enveloped by lamellae on both sides: the duplicature is formed. The dorsal region never becomes invaginated, and is called the istmus. The mesodermal tissue in the duplicature develops into the vestibulum. The vestibulum makes contact with the body near the istmus. The vestibulum plays a role in oxygenation. The two lamellae surrounding the animal each have an inner and an outer lamella.
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