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Discovery of new shrimp species adds to unique family


A University of Alberta researcher has discovered two new species of shrimp--adding to an unusual family that already includes varieties who can shoot bubbles that create sound waves, stunning their prey.

Dr. Arthur Anker, a post-doctoral fellow in the University of Alberta’s Department of Biological Sciences, focuses his research on a family of shrimp known as snapping shrimp--scientifically known as alpheidae--and has recently discovered two new species.

Shrimp from this family are diverse, ranging from one to nine centimetres in length, and including some rather lobster-like varieties with large claws used for self-defence and killing prey.

Anker’s findings--the result of a collaboration with Dr. Tomoyuki Komai of the Natural History Museum & Institute in Japan--were recently published in The Journal of Natural History.

Automate hayashii was collected near Hokkaido, Japan, extending the range of this primarily tropical shrimp family further north than originally thought.

Bermudacaris australiensis was collected off the coast of Western Australia. When Anker and his Texas A & M University colleague Dr. Thomas Iliffe first established the genus in 2000 for an unusual, almost blind shrimp from Bermuda caves, it was thought that this species was endemic to Bermuda.

This recent description of Bermudacaris australiensis indicates that it is far more widespread than once thought. It had been believed that the genus was found only in Bermuda caves but now researchers believe it is ecologically quite diversified.

The information collected from description can help biologists trace the origins of living things as well as determine the biodiversity, or richness in variety, in an area.

Description is "the basis of all biological, phylogenetic and evolutionary study," Anker said. After description "we can make a lot of hypotheses and assumptions about the evolution of a genus--it’s a lot more interesting than species descriptions."

In the course of his career, Anker has already described 15 new species and several new genera of shrimp.

While the marine world contains many different families of shrimp, Anker thinks his group is particularly interesting, as it contains some very unusual varieties. Some species, sometimes known as pistol shrimps, use their claws to shoot imploding bubbles. The fast-moving bubbles create sound waves, stunning prey. In some cases the underwater implosion creates light, a mechanism that intrigues physicists and biologists alike.

Other varieties of alpheid shrimp live in colonies, much like termites; still others have symbiotic relationships with goby fish, which protect the shrimp while they build burrows underwater. They then share the burrow.

But while there are biologists studying other shrimp families, few are currently studying the snapping shrimp.

Phoebe Dey | EurekAlert!
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