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New reef amphipod named after Sir Elton John

By Leonard Ho - Posted Sep 01, 2015 09:00 AM
What big arms you have! Leucothoe eltoni is a new crustacean species from Raja Ampat, Indonesia. The tunicate-dwelling amphipod's most striking feature is its massive front appendage. It's also now invasive in Hawaii. It was named after Elton John because, well, the scientist who discovered it simply loves Elton John.
New reef amphipod named after Sir Elton John

Credit: Dr. James Thomas

From Pensoft Publishers (ZooKeys):


Sir Elton John is the inspiration behind the name of a new coral reef crustacean species

 

While exploring the remote coral reefs of Raja Ampat in Indonesia, Dr. James Thomas from the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Florida, and his colleagues from Naturalis Natural History museum in the Netherlands, stumbled across a small but extraordinary crustacean living inside another reef invertebrate in a commensal association (without causing any harm, nor benefit to its host).

In his amazement to the amphipod's unusual form, Dr. Thomas called it L. eltoni after musician and actor Sir Elton John. The research is available in the open access journal ZooKeys.

"I named the species in honour of Sir Elton John because I have listened to his music in my lab during my entire scientific career," the lead author explains. "So, when this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting, an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard came to mind."

Taxonomists, scientists who study and name new species, have the choice to pick names that are relevant to locations, features of the animal, or people the scientist admires.

In an interesting twist L. eltoni is now reported from Hawaiian waters as an invasive species. "Several years ago I was contacted by scientists from the Bishop Museum in Honolulu to help identify an unusual amphipod they had collected," said Thomas. It proved to be the same species as the one from Indonesia. The most likely scenario for its introduction into Hawaiian waters was as a hitchhiker inside its host sponge or tunicate that was attached to a large floating drydock transported to Hawaii from Subic Bay, Philippines. Recent studies by Dr. Thomas in the Philippines during a California Academy of Science expedition in 2014 have shown this new species is also found there.

Marine animals can have unknown effects when transported to other ecosystems where they can compete with native species. In most cases these "invasions" go unnoticed. However, because scientists at the Bishop Museum had established a baseline of species over the years the presence of this invasive amphipod was quickly noted.

"Such studies show the importance of regular environmental monitoring, especially in tropical environments," commented the scientist. He also pointed out that even though their tiny size, crustaceans such as L. eltoni provide crucial information about reef health.

 


Journal Reference: Thomas J. D. (2015) Leucothoe eltoni sp. n., a new species of commensal leucothoid amphipod from coral reefs in Raja Ampat, Indonesia (Crustacea, Amphipoda). ZooKeys 518: 51-66. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.518.9340

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.

Website: http://www.advancedaquarist.com.

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