What’s in a name? The joys of naming new species.
I’m not sure it could ever live up to its name, but Australian Museum Research Institute scientist extraordinaire Jim Lowry and I have just described a new genus of amphipod (sand hoppers) called Glorieusella.
It’s not that we suffer delusions of grandeur on behalf of this particular little animal, just that it comes from somewhere that sounds rather grand: les Îles Glorieuses - the Glorioso Islands, near Madagascar. Naming animals is one of the delightful perks of being a taxonomist. There is something quite special about naming an animal (or plant/fungus/even the humble bacteria) and knowing that that name will survive into taxonomic posterity.
In the same publication we have also described four species new to science from here on the Australian coast. Two of these - Thrombasia evalina and Thrombasia saros - are named after ships that were wrecked at sea. The idea of naming things after shipwrecks appeals to me because it feels like a nod of respect to those whose fate lay at the mercy of the sea.
The third species, Thrombasia umina, was so-called because its type locality (that is the locality from where the specimen on which the description is based was sampled) was near Umina Beach in Broken Bay. I just like the way that that name rolls of the tongue in a very pleasing way! Our final species had the nickname ‘Big Red’, though for the purposes of scientific protocol it is officially called Schisturella rosa: ‘rosa’ referring to its bright red eyes.
These new species have been described from the treasure trove that is the Australian Museum’s marine invertebrate collection. They are all species of lysianassoid amphipods. Think of lysianassoids as vultures in a tiny, shrimp-like disguise and lurking around the sea, and you’ll get the picture. Many are insatiable scavengers and therefore play a very important role in the marine nutrient cycle.
Over the next year or so Jim and I will be describing many more new lysianassoid species from the AM collections. So don’t forget to check back for more updates on our progress…
Dr Niamh Kilgallen
Kilgallen, N.M. & Lowry, J.K. (2014) The Tryphosa group (Crustacea: Amphipoda: Lysianassoidea: Lysianassidae: Tryphosinae). Zootaxa, 3768(5), 501–545.