Research Highlights – August 2017

We feature some new research from our resident carcinologists, published recently in August.

A star is born (Pariphiculus stellatus Ng & Jeng, 2017)

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This new species of crab possesses peculiar star-shaped tubercles on its body—which is why it was given the epithet, stellatus, which means ‘star-like’ or ‘starry’ in Latin. The new crab species was described in a paper written by Prof. Peter K. L. Ng (Head, LKCNHM) and Dr. Ming-Shiou Jeng (Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica, Taiwan), and published in the journal, ZooKeys.

The crab was collected from a seamount near Peng-Chia-Yu Island, in northern Taiwan, in a regulated fishing zone for red corals [Note: The skeletons of red corals (Anthozoa: Coralliidae) are highly prized and are used to make jewelry.]

The new species has also been found previously in Japan and the Philippines, but the specimens from those places were either not identified to species or were misidentified as a similar-looking species, P. agariciferus. It was only recently, after close comparison with a larger set of specimens from different areas in the western Pacific region, that the differences came to light. Besides the peculiarly shaped tubercles, P. stellatus can be distinguished from P. agariciferus by its larger size and by differences in the form of the carapace, pincers and male genitalia.

Interestingly, all the specimens of P. stellatus were collected by fishermen using hand-operated tangle nets. The authors speculate that this may be the reason why it was not discovered previously by conventional marine biodiversity surveys, which tend to use ship-towed trawls and dredges to sample the sea floor.

Read the paper here:

Ng PKL, Jeng M-S (2017) Notes on two crabs (Crustacea, Brachyura, Dynomenidae and Iphiculidae) collected from red coral beds in northern Taiwan, including a new species of Pariphiculus Alcock, 1896. ZooKeys, 694: 135–156.

Michael’s crab (Sundathelphusa miguelito Mendoza & Sy, 2017)

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This new species of freshwater crab, from the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, came to the attention of our curator of crustaceans, Dr. Jose C. E. Mendoza, through a collaboration with Manila-based herpetologist and conservationist, Mr. Emerson Y. Sy (Philippine Center for Terrestrial and Aquatic Research).

Mr. Sy had previously sent some crab specimens to Dr. Mendoza for identification, including some that were purchased from an ambulant fish vendor in the town of Lake Sebu, in South Cotabato Province. Apparently, the crabs were being sold as food by the bagful to locals and to the neighbouring towns. After some comparison with the known species from Mindanao, the crabs were found to be a new species of Sundathelphusa, a freshwater crab genus occurring in the Philippines, East Malaysia and Indonesia.

The new species has been described in a paper published in the journal, Crustaceana, as part of the Michael Türkay Memorial Issue. This special issue is the latest tribute to the late Professor Türkay, the eminent Curator of Crustacea at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Dr. Mendoza and Mr. Sy gave the new species the epithet, miguelito, from a Spanish/Filipino endearment which means “little Michael”.

Sought for comment about this latest addition to the freshwater crab fauna of the Philippines, Dr. Mendoza remarked that he and his colleagues “have barely scratched the surface”, and that there are probably more species “hiding in plain sight” and waiting to be named and described.

Read the abstract here:

Mendoza JCE, Sy EY (2017) Sundathelphusa miguelito, a new species of freshwater crab from the southern Philippines (Brachyura, Gecarcinucidae). Crustaceana, 90(7–10): 1039–1053.

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