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Squilla empusa grows to a length of about 30 cm (12 in). The head bears stalked compound eyes which can move separately to scan the surroundings. The head and thorax are fused into a cephalothorax which is protected by a shield-like carapace. The thorax has eight segments each bearing a pair of appendages. The front pair are slender and used for grooming whereas the second pair are large, raptorial claws that can slash and spear prey. The third, fourth and fifth pairs each have a flattened terminal segment. They are known as maxillipeds and are used to move food to the mouth. The sixth, seventh and eighth pairs are unspecialised walking legs known as pereiopods. The abdomen has six segments, the front five each having a pair of pleopods (swimming legs). These are biramous (branched) and bear filamentous gills. The sixth segment bears a pair of large uropods which, together with the flexible, six-spiked telson, forms a broad tailfan. Two main methods of burrowing are employed. A vigorous fanning action of the pleopods causes particles of sediment to become suspended and the current produced pushes the plume backwards past the telson. Using this method, an animal can create a depression as large as itself within two minutes. It then turns round and use its maxillipeds to form a basket with which it carries lumps of sediment away from the excavation. This is a slower process but sustainable for a longer period. Further burrowing creates the typical tunnel with on...
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