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  Amphipods are thought to have originated in the Lower Carboniferous. Despite the group's age, however, the fossil record of the order Amphipoda is meagre, comprising specimens of one species from the Lower Cretaceous (Hauterivian) Weald Clay (United Kingdom)[18] and 12 species dating back only as far as the Upper Eocene, where they have been found in Baltic amber.[19][20]

Ecology

Talitrus saltator is an abundant animal of sandy beaches around Europe.

Amphipods are found in almost all aquatic environments, from fresh water to water with twice the salinity of sea water[4] and even in the Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the ocean.[21] They are almost always an important component of aquatic ecosystems,[22] often acting as mesograzers.[23] Most species in the suborder Gammaridea are epibenthic, although they are often collected in plankton samples. Members of the Hyperiidea are all planktonic and marine.[6] Many are symbionts of gelatinous animals, including salps, medusae, siphonophores, colonial radiolarians and ctenophores, and most hyperiids are associated with gelatinous animals during some part of their life cycle.[24] Some 1,900 species, or 20% of the total amphipod diversity, live in fresh water or other non-marine waters. Notably rich endemic amphipod faunas are found in the ancient Lake Baikal and waters of the Caspian Sea basin.[25]

The landhoppers of the family Talitridae (which also includes semi-terrestrial and marine animals) are terrestrial, living in damp environments such as leaf litter.[26] Landhoppers have a wide distribution in areas that were formerly part of Gondwanaland, but have colonised parts of Europe and North America in recent times.

Around 750 species in 160 genera and 30 families are troglobitic, and are found in almost all suitable habitats, but with their centres of diversity in the Mediterranean Basin, southeastern North America and the Caribbean.[27]

In populations found in Benthic ecosystems, amphipods play an essential role in controlling brown algae growth.[23] The mesograzer behaviour of amphipods greatly contributes to the suppression of brown algal dominance in the absence of amphipod predators.[23] Amphipods display a strong preference for brown algae in Benthic ecosystems, but due to removal of mesograzers by predators such as fish, brown algae is able to dominate these communities over green and red algae species.[23]

Morphology

The landhoppers of the family Talitridae (which also includes semi-terrestrial and marine animals) are terrestrial, living in damp environments such as leaf litter.[26] Landhoppers have a wide distribution in areas that were formerly part of Gondwanaland, but have colonised parts of Europe and North America in recent times.

Around 750 species in 160 genera and 30 families are troglobitic, and are found in almost all suitable habitats, but with their centres of diversity in the Mediterranean Basin, southeastern North America and the Caribbean.[27]

In populations found in Benthic ecosystems, amphipods play an essential role in controlling brown algae growth.[23] The mesograzer behaviour of amphipods greatly contributes to the suppression of brown algal dominance in the absence of amphipod predators.[23] Amphipods display a strong preference for brown algae in Benthic ecosystems, but due to removal of mesograzers by predators such as fish, brown algae is able to dominate these communities over green and red algae species.[23]

Compared to other crustacean groups, such as the Isopoda, Rhizocephala or Copepoda, relatively few amphipods are parasitic on other animals. The most notable example of parasitic amphipods are the whale lice (family Cyamidae). Unlike other amphipods, these are dorso-ventrally flattened, and have large, strong claws, with which they attach themselves to baleen whales. They are the only parasitic crustaceans which cannot swim during any part of their life cycle.[28]

Foraging behaviour