Marine Pillbug: New Species Discovered in Los Angeles
A new species of marine roly poly pillbug - actually, make that two new species - were recently discovered in Los Angles, a new study describes.
While documenting the new species, a second new species of pillbug, originally collected 142 years ago by biologists on a wooden sailing ship in Alaska, was found among an insect collection at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM).
The Los Angeles discovery, described in the journal ZooKeys, was stumbled upon during a Loyola Marymount University class fieldtrip. California is home to several Marine Protected Areas, so the class was surprised to find this little guy on a dirty, rocky beach at the very southernmost tip of the city of Los Angeles - less than a mile from the busiest port in America.
"We discovered it clutching on for dear life to one of the five arms of a common sea star," NHM researcher Dean Pentcheff said in a statement. "As soon as we saw this bumpy little guy, we knew it was something special that the researchers at NHM had to see, but my class and I had no idea we were looking at a new species."
NHM researchers named the marine pillbug Exosphaeroma pentcheffi, after the teacher who uncovered the first specimen. To identify it as a new species, the researchers used a scanning electron microscope because the specimen was so small.
Interestingly, pillbugs are even insects, despite but their name suggests, but rather cructaceans - specially adapted for living on dry land. Perhaps that's why scientists didn't realize until 142 years later that they were sitting on a new species in the NHM collection.
"It was really exciting to discover a new species that had just been hiding in a collection room for 142 years, waiting for someone to come along and realize it was a new species," said NHM researcher Adam Wall. "NHM's Crustacea collection is the fourth largest in the world, with millions of specimens in it. There are more new species in it, waiting to be discovered."
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