First 3D reconstruction of the rhizocephalan root system using MicroCT

Parasitic barnacles (Cirripedia: Rhizocephala) are highly specialized parasites of crustaceans. Instead of an alimentary tract for feeding they utilize a system of roots, which infiltrates the body of their hosts to absorb nutrients. Using X-ray micro computer tomography (MicroCT) and computer-aided 3D-reconstruction, we document the spatial organization of this root system, the interna, inside the intact host and also demonstrate its use for morphological examinations of the parasites reproductive part, the externa. This is the first 3D visualization of the unique root system of the Rhizocephala in situ, showing how it is related to the inner organs of the host. We investigated the interna from different parasitic barnacles of the family Peltogastridae, which are parasitic on anomuran crustaceans. Rhizocephalan parasites of pagurid hermit crabs and lithodid crabs were analysed in this study.