The group may be defined as follows: Sessile solitary Coelomata with bivalved shells usually of unequal size and arranged dorso-ventrally.
The Branchiopoda have a very variable number of body-segments, with or without a shield, simple or bivalved, and some of the postoral appendages normally branchial.
The Copepoda have normally a segmented body, not enclosed in a bivalved shell-covering, the segments not exceeding eleven, the limbs not branchial.
The bivalved carapace has a jointed rostrum, and covers only the front part of the body, to which it is only attached quite in front, the valve-like sides being under control of an adductor muscle.
In the outward appearance of the adults there is great want of uniformity, one set having their limbs sheltered by no carapace, another having a broad shield over most of them, and a third having a bivalved shell-cover within which the whole body can be enclosed.
- Though concealed within the bivalved shellcover, the mouth-parts are nearly as in the Gymnophylla, but the flexing of the caudal part is in contrast, and the biramous second antennae correspond with what is only a larval character in the other phyllopods.
In this suborder the head is more or less distinct, the rest of the body being in general laterally compressed and covered by a bivalved test.
- The body, seldom in any way segmented,, is wholly encased in a bivalved shell, the caudal part strongly inflexed, and almost always ending in a furca.
- The body is not encased in a bivalved shell; its articulated segments are at most eleven, those behind the genital segment being without trace of limbs, but the last almost always carrying a furca.