• Fri. Dec 8th, 2023

Scientists Discover New Isopod Species

Scientists Discover New Isopod Species

Image: New species of marine cryptofauna- Gnathia jimmybuffettii discovered in Florida Keys, named after musician Jimmy Buffett.
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Credit: Anja Erasmus, Ph.D., North-West University Water Research Group, South Africa

An international group of scientists from the University of Miami’s Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Sciences, University of Marine and North-West University’s Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management’s Water Research Group discovered a new species of marine cryptofauna in the Florida Keys. Cryptofauna are the small, hidden, organisms that make up most of the ocean’s biodiversity.

The isopod, about three millimeters long, is one of 15 species from the genus Gnathia Currently known in the region.

Newly discovered species Gnathia gimmibuffettiiA member of a group of crustaceans called gnathiid isopods, they were collected using light traps placed in shallow water and characterized using photomicrographs and genetic sequencing.

“On examination, it was determined to be a species previously unknown to science,” said the senior investigator Paul Sickel, A research professor Department of Marine Biology and Ecology at Rosenstiel School. This is the first new Florida gnathiid discovered in over 100 years.

Found throughout the world’s oceans, these tiny creatures lead very fascinating lives. The young are most active at night and feed on the blood of fish such as mosquitoes or ticks. Adults hide among the sediments on the ocean floor without feeding. Given their lifestyle, they are classified as parasites, organisms that require a living host to survive.

Current extreme ocean heat waves in Florida and other areas of the world that host coral reefs are a major concern for the species. Gnathia gimmibuffettiiThose who cannot swim in cold water. Work by Sickle’s group on other gnathiid species At above-average seawater temperatures, mortality rates increase and the abundance of gnathids on reefs decreases dramatically. To the extent that these effects are likely to be similar for the myriad of small invertebrates that live in the benthos (below), this could have major implications for coral reef food webs.

Because Sickle and his team are longtime fans of Jimmy Buffett’s music—which is synonymous with the Florida Keys—they named the new species: Gnathia gimmibuffettii After the musical epic.

“By naming a species after an artist, we want to encourage the integration of art and science,” said Sickel, whose research team named a similar species from the Caribbean. Bob Marley (Gnathia Marley).

“Every living thing in an ecosystem plays an important role, and every living thing has something to teach us,” Sickle said. “When we discover new species, we are reminded of how many undiscovered species there are still out there.”

Although these creatures have a parasitic lifestyle, the researchers emphasize that these artists, whom they admire and respect, are in no way compared to parasites.

The study is titledMorphological description and molecular characterization Gnathia gimmibuffettii sp. Nov. (Crustacea, Isopoda, Gnathidae): First new gnathiid in 100 years from a Floridian ecoregion” published in the journal on June 12, 2023 Bulletin of Marine Science. The authors were Anja Erasmus, Nico Smit and Kerry Hadfield of the North-West University Water Research Group in South Africa, and Paul Sickel of the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric and Earth Science.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

About the University of Miami

The University of Miami is a private research university and academic health system with a unique geographic capacity to connect institutions, individuals and ideas across the hemisphere and around the world. The university’s vibrant and diverse academic community includes 12 schools and colleges, serving more than 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students in more than 180 majors and programs. Located in one of the world’s most dynamic and diverse cities, the university builds new bridges across geographic, cultural and intellectual boundaries, bringing a passion for scholarly excellence, a spirit of innovation, respect for including and elevating diverse voices, and a commitment to meeting the challenges facing our world. Founded in the 1940s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science has grown into one of the world’s leading marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School helps communities better understand the planet, establish environmental policies, and improve society and quality of life. www.earth.miami.edu.

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