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New coral reef crustacean described and named after late reggae performer Bob Marley
Date:7/10/2012

President Barack Obama has one. Comedian Stephen Colbert has one. Elvis Presley has one. Even computer software magnate Bill Gates has one. And now, Bob Marley--the late popular Jamaican singer and guitarist--also has one. So what is it that each of these luminaries have? The answer: they each have a biological species that has been named after them.

Paul Sikkel, an assistant professor of marine ecology and a field marine biologist at Arkansas State University, discovered and just named after Marley a "gnathiid isopod"--a small parasitic crustacean blood feeder that infests certain fish that inhabit the coral reefs of the shallow eastern Caribbean. Sikkel named the species Gnathia marleyi.

All of the life stages of Gnathia marleyi are described by Sikkel and his research team in the June 6th issue of Zootaxia. This research was partly funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Sikkel said, "I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley's music. Plus, this species is as uniquely Caribbean as was Marley.

Gnathia marleyi is a new species within the gnathiid family, and the first new species to be described in the Caribbean in more than two decades.

By concealing themselves within coral rubble, sea sponge or algae, juvenile Gnathia marleyi are able to launch surprise attacks on fish and then infest them. Sikkel explained that adult gnathiids do not feed at all. "We believe that adults subsist for two to three weeks on the last feedings they had as juveniles and then die, hopefully after they have reproduced."

There have been increasing numbers of reports that the health of Caribbean coral reef communities are declining due to diseases. "We are currently researching the relationships between the health of coral reef communities and gnathiid populations," said Sikkel.

"Gnathiids, in general, are
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Contact: Lily Whiteman
lwhitema@nsf.gov
703-292-8310
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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