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.