Remipedes are blind crustaceans living in coastal aquifers containing saline groundwater with populations in almost every ocean basin explored, including Australia, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.

They are fascinating creatures and are still not fully known due to the difficulty of observing them in their natural environment, which is only accessible to cave-trained divers and collecting them.

The class is divided into the order Enantiopoda, extinct, represented by two fossil species, and Nectiopoda, which contains all known living remipedes. Most species are distributed in the Caribbean, one isolated species on Lanzarote and another in Western Australia.

Remipedes have first been described in their fossil form of an extinguished species. They were later discovered and studied live in their environment in some caves on the Grand Bahamas Island in 1981 by Jill Yager.

The taxonomic classification of Remipedia is mainly based on morphological descriptions from the 1980s, when only a few species were known. But since 2002, the number of species has doubled and raised some uncertainties. To date, there are 24 living species of remipedes assigned to three families.

Remipedes are venomous crustaceans and the only ones of their kind.

Description of the Remipedes

The remipede’s body consists of a head (cephalon) and a long trunk divided into segments with similar shapes, up to 32.

The appendages, “legs” on the trunk segments are paddle-like and directed to the side; hence the name “Remipedia,” which comes from the Latin remipedes, meaning “oar-footed” because of the beautiful movement of their many pairs of swimming legs. This member orientation is unusual in crustaceans and makes them externally similar to polychaete worms, similar to millipedes.

All known living remipedes lack color and eyes and do not have a carapace. Their two longest antennae serve as cephalic sensory appendages. 

Remipedes swim on their backs.

Reproduction of the remipedes

All living remipedes are hermaphrodites; they are simultaneously male and female and hold both characteristics on different fragments of their bodies: female genital pores on the protopods of the seventh trunk limbs and male gonopores opening on the fourteenth trunk limbs.

Their reproduction is still poorly understood and continues to fascinate scientists. Yet, their life cycle remains a mystery.

Remipedes in their environment in Mexico

The video features different specimens filmed in their environment while cave diving in the Cenotes of Mexico.

Contact us for some guided cave dives get the chance to observe live remipedes.

And if you want to become a cave diver, Deep Dark Diving offers high-quality cave diving training and will be happy to orientate you through your education curriculum. We also have a great eye to spot remipedes and other cave life, and we will be extremely happy to point them out to you and help you train your own eyes.


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