New species of invertebrates discovered in the Antarctic

Scientists have discovered two new species of invertebrates – polyps of the new gorgonia in the region of Austasen and and Isla Nueve.

Called Tauroprimnoa austasensis and Digitogorgia kuekenthali, both species are small and elongated, and stand out for the number, shape and layout of the scales of calcium carbonate that cover the polyps, and for the type of ramification of the colonies.

“The Tauroprimnoa are characterized by being colonies in the shape of a brush, with simple branches and whose polyps arranged in whorls, have only four marginal scales. The rest of the polyp is covered by five longitudinal rows of scales. The sight is reminiscent of a bull, hence the name”, Rebeca Zapata-Guardiola, main author of the study and researcher in the department for Physiology and Zoology at the US, describes to SINC.

The Digitogorgia type gorgonea have digitations in the distal region of the scales of the polyps, and the absence of spines on the eight marginal scales and on the eight rows filled with scales that cover the polyp.

The other four species discovered in the area of the South Georgia islands and in Atka bay in the Antarctic region –Thouarella bayeri, Thouarella sardana, Thouarella undulata, and Thouarella andeep are different in the ramification pattern of the colonies, in the layout of the polyps in the branches and in the shape and ornamentation of the scales of the polyp, according to Zapata-Guardiola.

The six new species have been collected using sampling techniques for benthic fauna thanks to the Agassiz net –one of the most commonly used trawling methods for analysing communities that live on the sea bed- during the Lampos, Andeep-Systco and Bendex campaigns on board the Polarstern ship.

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The studies of the species have been published in the journal Polar Biology and journal Scientia Marina.

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