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American University biologist discovers new crab species
Date:11/26/2012

e lagoon," Tudge recalled. "You slowly walk out into ever-increasing depths of water and it's a mixture of sand and sea grass and bits of coral, and then there's some channels. There's lots of different habitats there. Some islands are covered by mangroves. So we would visit all the different habitats that were there."

"We would collect on the reef crest, go and turn over coral boulders on the reef flat, snorkel over the sea grass beds. We pumped sand and mud to get things out of the ground. We walked into the mangroves and collected crustaceans from under the mangrove roots. We even snorkeled in the channels in the mangrove islands."

But discovering the new species was much less involved: Tudge turned over a coral boulder in an intertidal area, saw 50 or so tiny crabs scrambling around, and stuck a dozen or so specimens in a bottle before going on with his work.

Only later in the lab, under the microscope, was it determined that this isolated little group of hermit crabs might be unique.

As the journal authors write: "Given this cryptic habitat and the relatively minute size of the specimens (shield length range = 1.0-3.0 mm), it is not surprising that these populations have gone unnoticed during extensive sampling programs that have previously taken place along the Barrier Reef of Belize."

Getting the Word

Tudge found out only recently found out that Areopaguristes tudgeia tiny hermit crab differentiated from others in its genus by such characteristics as the hairs growing on some of its appendageswas joining the list of about 3 million known species.

Lemaitre emailed him a PDF of the finished article. A note said only, "Here's a new species. What do you think?" The note had a smiley emoticon.

That's the way it works, said Tudge's colleague American University's College of Arts and Sciences, biology professor Daniel Fong. There's no warning; one day you just find out. Fong has
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Contact: Maggie Barrett
barrett@american.edu
202-885-5951
American University
Source:Eurekalert  

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