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Unexpected crustacean diversity discovered in northern freshwater ecosystems
Date:3/2/2012

fleas of the genus Eurycercus, which can reach lengths of about 6 millimeters. The findings add to a body of evidence suggesting that the species diversity of water fleas is greater in northern regions than in the tropics.

This is a counterintuitive concept, as scientists have long supposed that the advance and readvance of ice sheets reduced much of the species diversity in colder climates, Taylor said. However, there is growing evidence that some northern areas remained ice-free and acted as hideouts during the harsh glacial advances.

The researchers not only convincingly documented new species diversity, but identified one likely new species and provided a detailed, formal description of another: Eurycercus beringi.

Like other water fleas, E. beringi is an important source of nutrients for fish and aquatic birds.

The new species -- from Alaska's remote Seward Peninsula -- has unusual anatomical features that force a rewrite of the taxonomy of Eurycercus above the species level. Moreover, the new anatomical details should aid future studies that use preserved body parts of Eurycercus found in lake sediments to reconstruct past ecological conditions.

The discovery of new crustacean species in unexpected places underscores the scope of the ongoing biodiversity crisis for freshwater ecosystems.


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Contact: Charlotte Hsu
chsu22@buffalo.edu
510-388-1831
University at Buffalo
Source:Eurekalert  

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