Developments in the understanding of the biology of marine wood boring crustaceans and in methods of controlling them

S. M. Cragg*, A. J. Pitman, S. M. Henderson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The most economically important wood boring Crustacea belong to the isopod families Sphaeromatidae and Limnoriidae, both of which have been recently revised and a number of new species have been recognised. Other wood boring crustaceans have now been recognised from tropical mangrove sites. Limnoriids are found from temperate to tropical waters, but appear to be restricted to waters with salinities close to that of seawater. Wood-boring species of Sphaeroma on the other hand can tolerate extremely low salinities, but are restricted to sub-tropical and tropical waters. Approaches to borer control that have proved effective against teredinids (use of naturally durable timber, copper-chrome-arsenic or creosote treatment, surface coatings) have been found under certain circumstances to be ineffective against Limnoria and Sphaeroma. A number of additives to conventional preservatives have been tested, with some insecticides showing evidence of enhancing Limnoria control. The question of crustacean borer nutrition may hold the key to problems of their control. Sphaeromatid borers are capable of filter-feeding and thus may never ingest the treatments applied to wood. Limnoriids do ingest wood, but the role of wood degrading tunneling bacteria, and soft-rotting ascomycete and deuteromycete fungi occurring in the wood they digest remains to be fully elucidated. The source or sources of wood- degrading enzymes that permit digestion of wood particles requires further investigation. The microecology of borer burrows has an important bearing on the availability of nitrogen for borers. Further insights into the problems posed by these borers may be obtained with a better understanding of their ecology. A better testing protocol for preservatives has been developed as a result of knowledge of the natural vertical distribution of Sphaeroma. Behavioural studies indicate that settlement on wood by Limnoria is enhanced by factors derived from conspecifics and from wood-inhabiting microorganisms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-205
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Biodeterioration and Biodegradation
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 1999


  • Crustaea
  • Limnoriidae
  • Marine
  • Sphaeromatidae
  • Wood


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