New Species of Squat Lobster Found in Spanish Waters

European biologists have discovered a new species of squat lobster in the underwater mountains facing the Galician coast, Spain.

Artist’s impression of the new squat lobster Uroptychus cartesi (K. Baba / E. Macpherson / SINC)

According to a paper in the journal Zootaxa, the new squat lobster called Uroptychus cartesi belongs to the Chirostylidae family and is one of the mere four species that live in Europe. Three of them were discovered at the end of the 19th century and the fourth in 1976. Fourteen can be found in the Americas and more than 100 exist in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Six specimens of U. cartesi, measuring between 5 cm and 7 cm in length, were captured at 1410 m during an expedition of the research campaign INDEMARES that studies the Banco de Galicia underwater mountain.

Despite their location in front of the coast of Galicia, this crustacean is unique to the easternmost part of the Atlantic due to the majority of its morphological characteristics: it is different from European species mainly because of its shape and the number of thorns on its shell. However, it has more similarities with the Caribbean species U. armatus.

“Its closeness to species from the Caribbean is logical,” said to SINC Dr Enrique Macpherson, a co-author of the discovery and researcher at the Center for Advanced Studies of Blanes. “All North Atlantic species have common features and are likely to have come from shared ancestry, who invaded the Atlantic from the Pacific and Indian Ocean a few million years ago.”

“The small orange-colored squat lobster usually lives around deep corals and gorgonians and tends to be abundant in submarine mountains and canyons that have been subject to little fishing,” Dr Macpherson explained.

Despite not bearing any resemblance, this squat lobster belongs to the group of hermit crabs. Researchers have verified that their larvae have a low dispersion capacity given that they “spend very few days in the planktonic stage. The paper also points out that they usually feed on small crustaceans and particulate matter.

The new species was named after Dr Joan Cartes, a researcher from the Barcelona’s Institute of Marine Sciences because of his “significant contribution to our knowledge of Iberian deep sea fauna.”

Dr Macpherson and his colleague Dr Keiji Baba from Kumamoto University in Japan said that Dr Cartes was also the first to recognize that individuals from this species were unusual.

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Bibliographic information: Baba K., Macpherson E. 2012. A new squat lobster (Crustacea: Decapoda: Anomura: Chirostylidae) from off NW Spain. Zootaxa 3224: 49-56