Physical characteristics

Most mysids are fairly small, between 0.39 and 1.18 in (10 and 30 mm) long. They have a shieldlike carapace that covers the cephalon (head region) and most of the thorax. The carapace is fused with the first three (in rare cases the fourth)

thoracic somites (segments). The eyes are usually stalked and movable; the cornea is generally developed with visual elements, but tends to be reduced with increasing depth of habitat. The antennules (antenna 1) and antennae (antenna 2) are biramous (forked). Male mysids typically bear a setose (bristly) lobe, the processus masculinus, on the peduncle of the an-tennules.

The thorax has eight pairs of pereopods or thoracic limbs, all of which are divided into two branches, an endopod and an exopod. The endopods of the first and sometimes the second pereopod are usually transformed into gnathopods (specialized appendages for feeding), which differ considerably from the remaining limbs. Female mysids have a marsupium made of fewer than seven pairs of lamellae (oostegites or brood plates), in which the embryos are kept until they grow into juveniles. The abdomen consists of six somites, generally similar in form but with the last somite longer than the others. Each of the first five abdominal segments bears a pair of pleopods. The pleopods are biramous, frequently reduced in the female and sometimes in the male. They are often sexually modified in the male. The telson, or posterior extremity of the body, has a pair of appendages known as uropods, which form a well-developed tail fan. A statocyst, which is a tiny organ related to the animal's sense of balance, is usually present in the endopod of the uropods.

Mysids themselves are often glassy or transparent; they can be seen only when the observer notices their black eyes darting about in the water. Most mysids have a body pattern formed by dark star-shaped chromatophores (clusters of pig-mented cells) against a light background color. Some species turn dark when placed against a black background; others that are usually light green and found among green algae may change to dark olive. Deep-sea mysids are often red.

Close-up of the head of the species Stygiomysis cokei. (Photo by Dr. Jerry H. Carpenter, Northern Kentucky University. Reproduced by permission.)

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