any of more than 300 species of small, bottom-dwelling marine and brackish-water crustaceans constituting the order Tanaidacea (superorder Peracarida). Tanaids have a worldwide distribution; they are especially numerous in shallow marine habitats but also occur at considerable depths in the deep sea. The body of these invertebrates is typically elongate and slender and measures about 2 to 25 mm (0.08 to 1 inch) in length. The thorax has seven pairs of walking legs, the first of which has a large pincerlike claw (chela) for clasping and the second specialized for burrowing. The abdomen has five pairs of swimming limbs and a pair of posterior appendages. Tanaids live on or in soft sediments and feed on organic detritus and plankton. Several species inhabit delicate tubes, which they build with fibrous secretions from several of their thoracic limbs. Eggs and developing young are carried by the female in a ventral brood pouch.
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