28 New Amphipod Species Discovered in Antarctica



Newly described species Epimeria loerzae from the Antarctic (Photo: Cédric d'Udekem d'Acoz, RBINS)
28 New Amphipod Species Discovered in Antarctica
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Reinout Verbeke

Biologists Cédric d'Udekem d'Acoz and  Marie Verheye of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences have discovered no less than 28 new amphipod species in Antarctica. Amphipods are small marine and freshwater crustaceans and the size of the new species (all marine) is ranging from two to eight centimeter. Some of the newly described species exhibit spectacular morphologies.

The new species, 27 of the genus Epimeria, and one of the genus Alexandrella, are very diverse and spectacular. Their body is often adorned with large spikes, which make them look like little dragons. Some have stunning colours. It was unexpected to find so many new species within a group that was supposed to be already well known. 'This shows that we still have so much to learn about Antarctica and its biodiversity', says Cédric d'Udekem d'Acoz. 'The continent may look like a biological desert on land, but the surrounding sea is full of unknown fauna.'

Our two biologists have now doubled the number of known Epimeria species in Antarctica. They published their findings in the 500+ pages monograph Epimeria of the Southern Ocean with notes on their relatives (Crustacea, Amphipoda, Eusiroidea), freely available through the open access European Journal of Taxonomy (download 176 MB).

D'Udekem d'Acoz and Verheye carried out their fieldwork aboard of the German icebreaker and research vessel Polarstern. They catched amphipods with trawls and dredges of different mesh size. The summer average water temperature in which the new species were discovered were between -1,7 and 2 degrees Celsius.

Quasimodo, Cyrano and Cinderella

For the species’ names d'Udekem d'Acoz sometimes found inspiration in literature and mythology. Three species were named after a main character in a theater play, novel or fairy tale: E. cyrano has a long nose, E. quasimodo has a hump, and E. cinderella is a small species without spectacular ornaments (a "humble" species). 'It's the privilege of the discoverer to name the new species', Cédric d'Udekem d'Acoz proudly adds. 'I even have four species named after me: a polychaete worm (Harmothoe cedrici), a shrimp (Alpheus cedrici), an amphipod (Prometopa cedrici) and a bryozoan (Reteporella dudekemi).'

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