Washington, August 25 (ANI): Scientists have discovered a previously unknown species of predatory crustaceans in the Canary Islands, which have a head equipped with long antennae for eyes, powerful prehensile limbs and poisonous fangs.
The species was found by an international team of scientists and cave divers in the Tunnel de la Atlantida, the world's longest submarine lava tube on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands.
They gracefully swim through the complete darkness of submarine caves, constantly on the lookout for prey.
Instead of eyes, predatory crustaceans of the class Remipedia rely on long antennae that search the lightless void in all directions.
Like some type of science fiction monster, their head is equipped with powerful prehensile limbs and poisonous fangs.
The newly discovered species of Remipedia was named 'Speleonectes atlantida', after the cave system it inhabits.
It is morphologically very similar to Speleonectes ondinae, a remipede that has been known from the same lava tube since 1985.
Based on DNA comparisons, the group of Professor Stefan Koenemann from the Institute for Animal Ecology and Cell Biology of TiHo Hannover conclusively proved that the lava tunnel harbors a second remipede species.
The divergence of the two species may have occurred after the formation of the six-kilometer lava tube during an eruption of the Monte Corona volcano some 20,000 years ago.
Remipedia are among the most remarkable biological discoveries of the last 30 years.
The first specimens of this crustacean group were discovered in 1979 during dives in a marine cave system on Grand Bahama in the Bahamas archipelago.
Since then, 22 species of Remipedia have been discovered.
The main distribution area of the cave-limited group extends from the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, through the northeastern Caribbean.
However, two geographically isolated species inhabit caves in Western Australia and Lanzarote.
The occurrence of these disjunct species continues to give rise to speculation about the evolutionary origins and history of Remipedia.
Since it is assumed that the relatively small and eyeless cave-dwellers could not cross an entire ocean by actively swimming, there must be other reasons for their disjunct global distribution.
It has therefore been suggested that Remipedia are a very ancient crustacean group, which was already widespread in the oceans of the Mesozoic, over 200 million years ago.
For these reasons, remipedes are often considered as a primeval group of crustaceans that became isolated from the main Caribbean group during the formation of the Atlantic Ocean. (ANI)