The molecular understanding of crustacean metamorphosis is hindered by small sized individuals and inability to accurately define molt stages. We used the spiny lobster Sagmariasus verreauxi where the large, transparent larvae enable accurate tracing of the transition from a leaf-shaped phyllosoma to an intermediate larval-juvenile phase (puerulus). Transcriptomic analysis of larvae at well-defined stages prior to, during, and following this transition show that the phyllosoma-puerulus metamorphic transition is accompanied by vast transcriptomic changes exceeding 25% of the transcriptome. Notably, genes previously identified as regulating metamorphosis in other crustaceans do not fluctuate during this transition but in the later, morphologically-subtle puerulus-juvenile transition, indicating that the dramatic phyllosoma-puerulus morphological shift relies on a different, yet to be identified metamorphic mechanism. We examined the change in expression of domains and gene families, with focus on several key genes. Our research implies that the separation in molecular triggering systems between the phyllosoma-puerulus and puerulus-juvenile transitions might have enabled the extension of the oceanic phase in spiny lobsters. Study of similar transitions, where metamorphosis is uncoupled from the transition into the benthic juvenile form, in other commercially important crustacean groups might show common features to point on the evolutionary advantage of this two staged regulation
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Ventura, T., Fitzgibbon, Q.P., Battaglene, S.C. & Elizur, A. 2015, "Redefining metamorphosis in spiny lobsters: Molecular analysis of the phyllosoma to puerulus transition in Sagmariasus verreauxi", Scientific Reports, vol. 5.
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