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New Species of Marine Annelid Worm Discovered in Antarctica

Feb 09, 2017 01:13 PM EST
Annelid Worms
New species of annelid worms discovered in Antarctica.
(Photo : Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Image)

Antarctica is hiding more secrets. A new species of polychaete, a type of annelid worms, has been discovered at Nishonoura near Japan's Syowa Station.

The samples of the species was taken underwater on January 16, 1981 and were recently analyzed.

The new species, described in a paper published in the journal Zootaxa, belongs to the genus Flabegraviera. The discovery of the new species paves the way in observing how animals survive in extreme environment like in Antarctica. A long-term monitoring system for Antarctica's land and coastal species is also underway, and the discovery of the annelid worm is part of the said international effort.

"This study is a major step forward in understanding marine life in the coastal region near Syowa Station. The Flabegraviera genus is unique to the Antarctic and considered a good example for studying how polychaetes adapt to extreme environments," said Dr. Keiichi Kaku, a lecturer at Hokkaido University and one of the researchers involved in the discovery, in a press release.

The researchers made their discovery after they started researching marine specimens stored at Japan's National Institute of Polar Research, in addition to newly collected specimens. Two of the specimens the researchers analyzed were annelid worms collected by scuba divers eight to nine meters deep on 1981 at Nishinoura near Syowa Station.

The annelid worm found eight meters deep belongs to Flabegraviera mundata. The discovery of F. mundata at eight meters depth is considered to be the shallowest depth ever recorded for the Flabegraviera genus. On the other hand, the annelid worm collected at nine meters appeared to belong to a new, unknown species.

Named after the icebreaker ship "Fuji" used during the 1981 expedition, the new species Flabegraviera fujiae resembles F. profunda. However, F. fujiae, unlike F. profunda, has eyes and exposed cephalic cage.

The discovery of the two annelid worms in depths reachable by scuba divers make the researchers jump for joy. The researchers hope that experiments could be done using living specimens in their natural habitat. By doing so, they could gain more knowledge regarding the marine life in the area.

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