Sir Elton John is the inspiration behind the name of a new coral reef crustacean species

August 26, 2015, Pensoft Publishers
Leucothoe eltoni, new crustacean species, from Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Credit: Dr. James Thomas

While exploring the remote coral reefs of Raja Ampat in Indonesia, Dr. James Thomas from the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Florida, and his colleagues from Naturalis Natural History museum in the Netherlands, stumbled across a small but extraordinary crustacean living inside another reef invertebrate in a commensal association (without causing any harm, nor benefit to its host).

In his amazement to the amphipod's unusual form, Dr. Tomas called it L. eltoni after musician and actor Sir Elton John. The research is available in the open access journal ZooKeys.

"I named the species in honour of Sir Elton John because I have listened to his music in my lab during my entire scientific career," the lead author explains. "So, when this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting, an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard came to mind."

Taxonomists, scientists who study and name new species, have the choice to pick names that are relevant to locations, features of the animal, or people the scientist admires.

In an interesting twist L. eltoni is now reported from Hawaiian waters as an . "Several years ago I was contacted by scientists from the Bishop Museum in Honolulu to help identify an unusual amphipod they had collected," said Thomas. It proved to be the same species as the one from Indonesia. The most likely scenario for its introduction into Hawaiian waters was as a hitchhiker inside its host sponge or tunicate that was attached to a large floating drydock transported to Hawaii from Subic Bay, Philippines. Recent studies by Dr. Thomas in the Philippines during a California Academy of Science expedition in 2014 have shown this is also found there.

The tunicate Herdmania sp., Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Credit: Dr. James Thomas

Marine animals can have unknown effects when transported to other ecosystems where they can compete with native species. In most cases these "invasions" go unnoticed. However, because scientists at the Bishop Museum had established a baseline of over the years the presence of this invasive amphipod was quickly noted.

"Such studies show the importance of regular environmental monitoring, especially in tropical environments," commented the scientist. He also pointed out that even though their tiny size, crustaceans such as L. eltoni provide crucial information about reef health.

Explore further: Brushing off the dust: New snail species found lying in a museum since the 19th century

More information: Thomas J. D. (2015) Leucothoe eltoni sp. n., a new species of commensal leucothoid amphipod from coral reefs in Raja Ampat, Indonesia (Crustacea, Amphipoda). ZooKeys 518: 51-66. DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.518.9340

Related Stories

Whale-eating deep-sea shrimp discovered

August 5, 2015

Two new species of submarine shrimp-like creature, capable of 'stripping' a pig carcass in a matter of days, have been discovered by a team of scientists from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

New cryptic amphipod discovered in West Caucasus caves

May 18, 2015

An international team of scientists have discovered a new species of typhlogammarid amphipod in the limestone karstic caves of Chjalta mountain range—the southern foothills of the Greater Caucasus Range. The study was published ...

The unexamined diversity in the 'Coral Triangle'

October 7, 2014

Research on zoantharians, a group of animals related to corals and anemones, by researchers James Reimer of the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan, Angelo Poliseno of Universita Politecnica delle Marche in Italy, ...

Recommended for you

Nano-droplets are the key to controlling membrane formation

February 19, 2019

The creation of membranes is of enormous importance in biology, but also in many chemical applications developed by humans. These membranes are shaped spontaneously when soap-like molecules in water join together. Researchers ...

LOFAR radio telescope reveals secrets of solar storms

February 19, 2019

An international team of scientists led by a researcher from Trinity College Dublin and University of Helsinki announced a major discovery on the very nature of solar storms in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Pottery reveals America's first social media networks

February 19, 2019

Long before Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and even MySpace, early Mississippian Mound cultures in America's southern Appalachian Mountains shared artistic trends and technologies across regional networks that functioned in ...

Observation of quantized heating in quantum matter

February 19, 2019

Shaking a physical system typically heats it up, in the sense that the system continuously absorbs energy. When considering a circular shaking pattern, the amount of energy that is absorbed can potentially depend on the orientation ...

Lobster's underbelly is as tough as industrial rubber

February 19, 2019

Flip a lobster on its back, and you'll see that the underside of its tail is split in segments connected by a translucent membrane that appears rather vulnerable when compared with the armor-like carapace that shields the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.