New spider crab named 50 years after its discovery

September 8, 2016 by Teresa Belcher, Sciencenetwork Wa, Science Network WA
New spider crab named 50 years after its discovery
A juvenile male Paranaxia keesingi in full camouflage, collected from the Passage Islands, Pilbara. Credit: CSIRO

A new species of spider crab has been named, more than 50 years after the first specimen was lodged at the Western Australian Museum.

Several specimens of the long-legged were collected during recent dredging surveys in WA's northwest, and upon detailed examination, they were found to look quite different to the one existing species of the genus, Paranaxia serpulifera.

After locating and examining 32 similar specimens amongst the WA Museum and Queensland Museum collections, and performing , it was clear they belonged to a , says WA Museum curator of Crustacea and Worms, Andrew Hosie.

The crab was named Paranaxia keesingi, after CSIRO's Dr John Keesing, in recognition of his contribution and commitment to the knowledge of WA biodiversity.

The earliest collected P. keesingi found in storage was collected in 1963 by Fremantle-based fishermen W. & W. Poole from Shark Bay.

Many specimens are in a similar situation—waiting for someone to take notice and characterise them—according to Mr Hosie.

"Describing new species and ensuring that they are not an already known species, can be incredibly slow and painstaking work, requiring great patience and attention to detail," Mr Hosie says.

One of the main reasons for the long time a specimen may remain undescribed is lack of available expertise, as museums generally do not have a scientist dedicated to every single group of animal, he says.

"We have to rely on experts at other museums for this material to be examined, and we routinely send specimens out for identification," he says.

"But if the priorities and funding of external experts don't line up with ours, then it can take a very long time before they are even identified as a new species, let alone described, named and published."

Secondly, Mr Hosie says specimens may not be suitable or there may not be enough information to describe them.

"If there is only one or a few specimens, or they are damaged, juvenile, only females, or only males—then naming and describing them may be postponed until there are enough of suitable quality to provide a full description of the species," he says.

Advancements in science also mean that species can now be distinguished at a genetic level to help tease apart 'species complexes' where there is a group of very similar looking species, Mr Hosie says.

"There are now new species described that were once considered regional variants or subspecies, but with the aid of genetic sequencing these are often shown to be distinct ."

Paranaxia keesingi can be found as far south as the Houtman Abrolhos Islands and north into Indonesian waters off New Guinea as well as in northern Queensland and is recorded at depths of up to 175 metres.

Explore further: New bandicoot species among museum treasures

More information: ANDREW M. HOSIE et al. Description of a new species of brooding spider crab in the genus Paranaxia Rathbun, 1924 (Brachyura: Majoidea), from northern Australia and Indonesia, Zootaxa (2016). DOI: 10.11646/zootaxa.4127.1.6

Related Stories

New whirligig beetle species discovered

November 5, 2015

A new species of whirligig beetle is the first to be described in the United States since 1991. Grey Gustafson, a PhD student at the University of New Mexico, and Dr. Robert Sites, an entomologist at the University of Missouri's ...

Old specimens establish a new bamboo worm genus and species

July 6, 2016

Bamboo worms (family Maldanidae) comprise an easily recognizable family of bristle worms (class Polychaeta). Their common name they receive because of their elongated segments, ending with an appendage, which gives them the ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...


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.