A novel form of zoantharian species happens to be the first one to be classified in accordance with the laws of taxonomy since the past century.
A new species of zoantharian caught the scientists by surprise. They were carrying out a search mission termed SCUBA beneath the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.
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There, they happened to chance upon a single polyp. These creatures lay submerged beneath the soft sediment of the sea floor. The only thing that served as an identity mark for these creatures was the oral disk and tentacles that extruded from the sea floor.
Most of the zoantharians happen to survive and thrive in colonies. That is one reason why they are often termed colonial anemones. Many of them exist in the shallow depths of tropical and subtropical areas.
Large colonies of these curious creatures could be found attached to coral reefs. Yet these polyps were leading lives of isolation and quarantine. They also didn’t have any zooxanthellae.
These are unicellular organisms that coexist in tandem with marine invertebrates. Such a pattern is common among the zoantharians.
The discovery of the zoantharians was published in a journal. Isolated zoantharians have been known from the scarce reports regarding these critters.
Only three such species have been identified up until now. The majority of these date back to more than a century ago. They belong to the Indo-Pacific region.
Little knowledge exists regarding the species that was studied. It was called Sphenopus. Its full taxonomic name is Sphenopus exilis. It is very tiny when compared to the other three Sphenopus species.
Each polyp of this creature measures about 3 cm in lenth. Two bay areas off the coast of Okinawa show the presence of this creature.
It is a strange twist of fate that both these bay regions are subject to development plans. This would spell the doom of this species of zoantharian. An American military base is being constructed and this would greatly harm the ecosystem.
The ecosystem remains pretty much unexplored. Some have gone so far as to say that the only reason this species of zoantharian was discovered was because the right circumstances dovetailed in such a beautiful manner.
In other words, it was a lucky chance. It also shows us that to have the right sort of researchers doing some exploration would be a boon for the discovery of biodiversity on earth.
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The discovery of this unusual new species is reported in the open access journal ZooKeys.