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Common Burrower Amphipod

Artwork by: Joann Wheeler 1999

Fast Fact:

Many studies have used amphipods as an indicator species for evaluating the acute and chronic toxicity of contaminated sediments.

Size Generally one half inch in length or less.
Habitat The common burrower amphipod is found in the subtidal zones of estuaries throughout the U.S. Atlantic coast from Cape Cod, Massachusetts to northern Florida. They live in permanent tubes constructed from sand grains and debris. Their tubes can be deeper than two inches in some areas of the Bay. Common burrower amphipods live in both shallow and deep water as long as there is good water flow. They prefer the oligohaline and mesohaline regions of the Chesapeake Bay.
Reproduction The common burrower amphipod breeds from March through November in the Chesapeake Bay. Fertilization is internal and females brood their young in the marsupium located on the ventral surface of the abdomen. The number of eggs a female produces depends on her size, meaning a larger female will produce more eggs than a smaller female. On average, females can carry 10-40 eggs at a time. Females breed five times in a year; however, this rate is greatly influenced by food availability and temperature.
Feeding The common burrower amphipod lies inside its tube with its head near the opening to filter plankton from the water.
Predators The common burrower amphipod is a favorite food item for fishes, such as spot (Leiostomus xanthurus) and croaker (Micropogonias undulatus), and crabs, such as the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus).
Description Amphipods have a segmented and laterally flattened body that contains the head, the thorax, and the abdomen.
Other This species of amphipod is often a dominant species with densities sometimes reaching 40,000 per square meter in the upper and mid-Bay regions. Therefore, they are an ecologically important component of the Chesapeake Bay benthic community.

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