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Scientists discover new genus of crustacean

In recent journeys to Madagascar, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, the Philippines, and French Polynesia, scientists from the Centre for Advanced Studies of Blanes and the University of Barcelona have discovered not only five new crustaceous species, but also the existence of a new genus in the family.

Through use of molecular data and the form and relationship between structures of the animals, the experts were able to distinguish 5 distinctly new species out of the 6 they encountered. While the species do look quite similar, they are genetically different. The five previously unknown varieties were found to be of the Galatheidae family and Lauriea genus. Individuals of the family of Galatheidae are characterized by extremely long setae, which are stiff hair or bristlelike structures, and legs ending in a double spine.

Also, based on the fact that one of the species possessed characteristics that the nearby species did not, scientists created a new genus Triondonthea. A genus is a category in taxonomy ranked above species, but below family.

This is one of the five new species found, Lauriea teresae. Photo by: Enrique Marcpherson.
This is one of the five new species found, Lauriea teresae. Photo by: Enrique Marcpherson.

and co-author of this study explains, very different from the Lauriea species despite being very morphologically similar. The morphological differences are small to our eyes but reflect great inequalities on a species level,” says co-author Enrique Macpherson, a researcher at the Centre for Advanced Studies of Blanes.

He goes on to say, “These species can be found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans but not in the American Pacific. They are generally in shallow water and mostly in areas of coral reef. Some are endemic, as they only live on an archipelago or in a very specific area, whereas others spread from Madagascar to the French Polynese.”

During the expeditions, animals were collected in nets, traps, dredges, and through diving methods. The samples were then divided on the boat or in a lab, and after were sent to experts in each of the taxonomic groups. Macpherson himself specializes in squat lobsters, the group of crustaceans studied.

This study adds to the work of a previous one begun over 20 years ago. This prior study was carried out through French and U.S. expeditions across the entirety of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Macpherson confirms that, to date, these oceans have been explored up to depths of 5,000 meters.

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