Friday, October 23, 2009

Good Night for the Marine Biocode Team.

The Marine Invertebrate Biocode Team did the first of this collecting season's night dives tonight, bringing back a rich assemblage of nocturnal animals from the reefs surrounding Moorea.

Several beautiful crustaceans were new for the inventory, including a species of Slipper Lobster (Scyllaridae: P.holthuisi), and two species of Swimming crab (Portunidae), while others were much more cryptic, including two species of Decorator Crab (Majidae) and a Penaeid shrimp.

Conditions were exceptionally calm, allowing the divers to get into the 'avas' or shallow water channels that run through the reef. Under normal conditions, this would be near-suicidal, so the fauna represented in these areas are under-represented in museum collections. The team spent most of the dive working very small areas of habitat, finding 'rare' and undescribed taxa and completely unknown ecological patterns among the cephalaspidean gastropods, brittlestars, xanthid crabs. Everyone is ready to spend all the time we can diving at night and taking advantage of the beautiful weather.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Meeting the Alis

Two of the most active Invertebrate teams in the world had a chance to collaborate over the last few days. The R.V. Alis, and a team from Paris Museum led by Dr. Phillip Bouchet arrived in the Society Islands to do surveys of the deep-water fauna. The Biocode Marine Invertebrate team, led by Dr. Gustav Paulay was invited to use the samples to further the efforts to understand the fauna of French Polynesia. The first day held surprises for everyone as the deep-water dredges came back on board with a sparse but novel fauna.

Among the finds were a hermit crab that has just about lost its shell: it wears a miniscule clam to cover its miniaturized abdomen. In its crab-like shape, this new species is unlike any other hermit known. Other hermit crabs collected do not use a shell for covering their abdomen, but instead are covered by zoanthids (a cnidarian related to anemones and corals).
Other treasures were several deep-water sea cucumbers unknown from the area which will be useful in FLMNH's efforts to genetically sequence and understand the relationships in this enigmatic group of echinoderms.