New butterflyfish species, Greg McFall/NOAA

New Crab for Sale

Very often scientists travel to distant parts of the planet to describe a new species. They might journey deep into the rainforest or to the bottom of the sea. A team of scientists from Australia, China, and Taiwan did something very different. They described a new genus and species of crab they found at a Chinese fish market! The crab is bright orange, like a highway cone, and has a unique hard shell (carapace) and unusual reproductive organs. By talking to the people who harvested the crab, they were able to find where it came from—limestone streams in the hills of southern China—and collect more specimens. Sometimes it pays to look close to home for new species! The new crab species is described in the latest issue of the journal Zookeys.

Parasitic Worm with a Presidential Name

A new species of parasitic flatworm that infects turtles in Malaysia was described recently and given a familiar sounding name, Baracktrema obamai. While it may sound like an insult to President Obama, the responsible scientist sees the flatworms as beautiful and resilient. They “face incredible obstacles to complete their journey (life cycle) and must contend with the immune system of the host in order to mature and reproduce,” says scientist Thomas Platt. He was inspired to name his discovery after Obama when genealogy research traced his and the president’s families back to a common ancestor.

These turtle parasites are distant relatives and likely ancestors of the parasitic flatworms that cause the human disease schistosomiasis, a devastating disease that debilitates millions of people in developing countries annually. The research teams says that studying the evolutionary history of this group of worms could broaden our understanding of the origins and evolution of schistosomiasis and help point the way to helpful new approaches for studying how the disease causes harm.

Two New Species Enjoy MPA Expansion

While a new species of Tosanoides fish lives thousands of miles away from Baracktrema obamai and is a fish and not a worm, it does share its new name with the parasite. Celebrating President Obama’s expansion of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, Sylvia Earle and others were on hand recently to give thanks to the president by announcing the seventh species named for him, a lovely orange-pink ray-finned fish with a circular red spot ringed with blue on its dorsal fin. This is the first species of the genus found outside of Japan and has yet to be published. More information is available at National Geographic.

Richard Pyle, who discovered the new fish, found another new species in the same protected waters. Prognathodes basabeiis a new species of butterflyfish found at depths of 150 to 500 feet, living in deep coral reefs also known as mesophotic coral ecosystems or “the Twilight Zone.” (The Academy’s latest exhibit explores these ecosystems and the technology needed to study them.) “Butterflyfish are the glamour fish of the coral reefs,” Pyle says. “They are colorful, beautiful, and have been very well-studied worldwide. Finding a new species of butterflyfish is a rare event."”

Image: Greg McFall/NOAA

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