The most important classes of Crustacea are Branchiopoda, which includes the brine shrimp; Maxillopoda, which includes the barnacles and copepods; Ostracoda, which includes the mostly very small seed shrimp; and Malacostraca, which includes the familiar shrimp, crayfish, lobsters, and crabs. Most of the smaller marine crustaceans can be found in plankton (see marine biology) and thereby occupy an important position in the marine food chain. For example, the crustacean subclass Copepoda supplies the food of the crustacean crustacean order Euphausiacea, the euphausids or krill, shrimplike creatures that are the food of baleen whales and other marine animals. Other copepods supply food for small fish, and still others exist as parasites on the skin and gills of fish. Best known of the smaller freshwater crustaceans are members of the genus Daphnia (water fleas), the fairy shrimp (a phyllopod that swims inverted), and Cyclops (a copepod). The order Isopoda includes the only large group of truly terrestrial crustaceans. Known as woodlice, sow bugs, or pillbugs, these small animals can be found under the bark of trees, beneath stones and rocks, and in other damp places. When disturbed they curl up armadillolike, withdrawing into the exoskeleton.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.