New crustacean species discovered near Canary Islands


Godzillus robustus, photo Pål Abrahamsen, IMR

From Biology News Net:

They gracefully swim through the complete darkness of submarine caves, constantly on the lookout for prey. Instead of eyes, predatory crustaceans of the class Remipedia rely on long antennae which search the lightless void in all directions. Like some type of science fiction monster, their head is equipped with powerful prehensile limbs and poisonous fangs.

Accordingly, the translations of their Latin names sound menacing. There is the “Secret Club Bearer” (Cryptocorynetes) or the “Beautiful Hairy Sea Monster” (Kaloketos pilosus). The names of some genera were inspired by Japanese movie monsters, for example, the “Swimming Mothra” (Pleomothra), the “Strong Godzilla” (Godzillius [sic: Godzillus] robustus) or the “Gnome Godzilla” (Godzilliognomus).

During a cave diving expedition to explore the Tunnel de la Atlantida, the world’s longest submarine lava tube on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, an international team of scientists and cave divers have discovered a previously unknown species of crustacean, belonging to the remipede genus Speleonectes, and two new species of annelid worms of the class Polychaeta.

The team consisted of scientists from Texas A&M University and Pennsylvania State University in the U.S., the University of La Laguna in Spain, and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover and University of Hamburg, both in Germany. The extensive results of the Atlantida Diving Expedition will be presented in a special issue of the Springer journal Marine Biodiversity, comprising seven articles, to be published in September 2009.

The newly discovered species of Remipedia was named Speleonectes atlantida, after the cave system it inhabits. It is morphologically very similar to Speleonectes ondinae, a remipede that has been known from the same lava tube since 1985. Based on DNA comparisons, the group of Prof. Stefan Koenemann from the Institute for Animal Ecology and Cell Biology of TiHo Hannover conclusively proved that the lava tunnel harbors a second remipede species. The divergence of the two species may have occurred after the formation of the six-kilometer lava tube during an eruption of the Monte Corona volcano some 20,000 years ago.

Remipedia are among the most remarkable biological discoveries of the last 30 years. The first specimens of this crustacean group were discovered in 1979 during dives in a marine cave system on Grand Bahama in the Bahamas archipelago. Since then, 22 species of Remipedia have been discovered. The main distribution area of the cave-limited group extends from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, through the northeastern Caribbean. However, two geographically isolated species inhabit caves in Western Australia and Lanzarote.

The occurrence of these disjunct species has continues to give rise to speculation about the evolutionary origins and history of Remipedia. Since it is assumed that the relatively small (largest specimens are up to four centimeters long) and eyeless cave-dwellers could not cross an entire ocean by actively swimming, there must be other reasons for their disjunct global distribution. It has therefore been suggested that Remipedia are a very ancient crustacean group, which was already widespread in the oceans of the Mesozoic, over 200 million years ago. For these reasons, remipedes are often considered as a primeval group of crustaceans.

According to this evolutionary scenario, the newly discovered species Speleonectes atlantida and the previously known species Speleonectes ondina, both occurring in the undersea lava tube on Lanzarote, would represent ancient relicts that became isolated from the main Caribbean group during the formation of the Atlantic Ocean.

See also here.

The first men and women from the Canary Islands were Berbers: here.

Hermit crabs, a lineage some 200 million years old, may not have been the first to salvage mollusk shells for self-protection. Primitive arthropods were among the earliest animals to venture onto land—500 million years ago—and they too recycled shells, according to new research: here.

Hermit Crabs Dangerously Distracted by Humans: here.

BIODIVERSITY: Amateur Biologists Join Global Bid to Catalog Species: here.

6 thoughts on “New crustacean species discovered near Canary Islands

  1. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-10/smu-sfs102709.php

    Snail fossils suggest semiarid eastern Canary Islands were wetter 50,000 years ago

    Fossil land snail shells found in ancient soils on the subtropical eastern Canary Islands show that the Spanish archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa has become progressively drier over the past 50,000 years.

    Isotopic measurements performed on fossil land snail shells resulted in oxygen isotope ratios that suggest the relative humidity on the islands was higher 50,000 years ago, then experienced a long-term decrease to the time of maximum global cooling and glaciation about 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, according to new research by Yurena Yanes, a post-doctoral researcher, and Crayton J. Yapp, a geochemistry professor, both in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

    With subsequent post-glacial climatic fluctuations, relative humidity seems to have oscillated somewhat, but finally decreased even further to modern values.

    Consequently the eastern Canary Islands experienced an overall increase in dryness during the last 50,000 years, eventually yielding the current semiarid conditions. Today the low-altitude eastern islands are characterized by low annual rainfall and a landscape of short grasses and shrubs, Yanes says.

    The research advances understanding of the global paleoclimate during an important time in human evolution, when the transition from gathering and hunting to agriculture first occurred in the fertile Middle East and subsequently spread to Asia, North Africa and Europe.

    “In the Canary Archipelago, land snails are one of the rare ‘continuous’ records of paleoclimatic conditions over the last 50,000 years,” Yanes says. “The results of this study are of great relevance to biologists and paleontologists investigating the evolution of plants and animals linked to climatic fluctuation in the islands.”

    The researchers’ isotopic evidence reflects changing atmospheric and oceanic circulation associated with the waxing, waning and subsequent disappearance over the past 50,000 years of vast ice sheets at mid- to high latitudes on the continents of the Northern Hemisphere.

    The research also is consistent with the observed decline in diversity of the highly moisture-sensitive land snails.

    Land snail shells are abundant and sensitive to environmental change and as fossils they are well-preserved. Measurement of variations in oxygen isotope ratios of fossil shells can yield information about changes in ancient climatic conditions.

    The shells are composed of the elements calcium, oxygen and carbon, which are combined to form a mineral known as aragonite. Oxygen atoms in aragonite are not all exactly alike. A small proportion of those atoms is slightly heavier than the majority, and these heavier and lighter forms of oxygen are called isotopes of oxygen.

    Small changes in the ratio of heavy to light isotopes can be measured with a high degree of accuracy and precision. Variations in these ratios are related to climatic variables, including relative humidity, temperature and the oxygen isotope ratios of rainwater and water vapor in the environments in which land snails live.

    ###

    Yanes presented the research at a scientific session of the 2009 annual meeting of The Geological Society of America in Portland, Ore., Oct. 18-21. The research was funded by Spain’s Ministry of Science and Innovation and the National Science Foundation. For more information go to http://www.smuresearch.com

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  2. Underwater volcano ‘teems with life’

    Published: 4 November 2009

    Scientists found corals, sponges and sea cucumbers in the ‘dormant’ volcano

    An underwater volcano teeming with life has been discovered by scientists exploring the Casablanca Seamount, 300 miles west of Morocco.

    The team of researchers on board RRS Discovery were expecting to uncover nothing more than a sediment-covered hill when they chose the two-and-a-half mile high underwater mountain as the test site for the new £200,000 Hydraulic Benthic Interactive Sampler (HyBIS).

    Instead, the live video feed revealed the jagged peaks of a recently erupted volcano, adorned with a “huge field of eels”, each two metres long, standing on their tails, quivering in the current.

    The Casablanca Seamount is part of a chain of undersea volcanoes previously thought to have been dormant for 15 million years.

    “We were expecting to find it completely covered in 15 million years’ worth of mud,” Bramley Murton, who led the team from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, told The Times.

    “But as well as a huge field of eels, we were surprised to find cold-water corals, sponges and sea cucumbers, and patrolled by lobsters and sharks.”

    “It was absolutely amazing,” added Viet Huehnerbach, the HyBIS co-pilot. “I’ve been on 50 cruises and I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

    http://www.sidewaysnews.com/environment-nature/underwater-volcano-teems-life

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