Monster discovered in Canadian Arctic

October 19, 2017, University of Manitoba
Monstrillopsis planifrons, or "flat headed monster." Credit: Aurelie Delaforge

A University of Manitoba graduate student discovered Canada's first, genuine, scientifically sound monster lurking under our Arctic sea ice.

In adult form, the beast uses eight bristly legs to paddle its mostly translucent body through the dark water. It has one weak eye, no mouth, and two antennas adorned with ragged, flowing hairs. Thankfully, for sleep's sake, it is only 2mm long.

Aurelie Delaforge did not purposefully seek this monster out in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. But she found it, and now Canada's arctic biodiversity includes a new copepod of the Monstrilloida family, derived from the word "monster". There are more than 160 different Monstrilloida zooplankton floating around the oceans, and now Canada's Arctic has a species of its own. Happy Halloween.

This discovery came thanks to two noteworthy coincidences. One, Delaforge studied the taxonomy of small animals and plants for her masters back home in France and so knew enough to recognize the oddity. Two, while living on an ice camp in Canada's high arctic, she was sampling the ocean to support her PhD thesis on what causes plankton blooms under the sea ice, and she took the samples during the short two-month window these animals take adult form—May and June. Outside of these months, the animal would be nearly invisible as larvae or busy living as a parasite inside like clams and sponges. But by luck, the creature kept showing up in her samples, suggesting it didn't just drift over from somewhere else. It was local.

Monstrillopsis planifrons sp. n., adult female holotype from the canadian arctic. (A) cephalic region, dorsal view (B) habitus, dorsal view (C) urosome, ventral view, showing fifth legs (D) urosome, dorsal view (E) insertion of ovigerous spine on dorsal surface of genital double-somite (F) terminal section of ovigerous spines (G) eggs along ovigerous spines. Credit: University of Manitoba

After returning to her lab at the U of M, Delaforge sent a text to a Department of Fisheries and Oceans researcher, Wojciech Walkusz: "I have this alien!!!" He immediately suspected it was a Monstrilloida so she sent her specimen to Mexico where the world's foremost monster identification specialist resides. Eduardo Suárez-Morales dissected the tiny creature and confirmed the Canadian Arctic's first, true monster: Monstrillopsis planifrons, or flat headed monster.

Delaforge and her colleagues published their discovery, "A new species of Monstrillopsis (Copepoda, Monstrilloida) from the lower Northwest Passage of the Canadian Arctic", in the latest edition of the ZooKeys journal.

Aurelie Delaforge did not purposefully seek this monster out in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. But she found one while living on an ice camp. Credit: University of Manitoba

Explore further: Zooplankton resilient to long-term warming

More information: Aurélie Delaforge et al. A new species of Monstrillopsis (Crustacea, Copepoda, Monstrilloida) from the lower Northwest Passage of the Canadian Arctic, ZooKeys (2017). DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.709.20181

Related Stories

Zooplankton resilient to long-term warming

August 30, 2017

Temperature plays an important role in the distribution of ocean plankton communities and has the potential to cause major distribution shifts, as recently observed in the Arctic.

Solving the mystery of the Arctic's green ice

March 29, 2017

In 2011, researchers observed something that should be impossible—a massive bloom of phytoplankton growing under Arctic sea ice in conditions that should have been far too dark for anything requiring photosynthesis to survive. ...

Canada to push Arctic claim in Europe

August 21, 2014

Canada's top diplomat will discuss the Arctic with his Scandinavian counterparts in Denmark and Norway next week, it was announced Thursday, a trip that will raise suspicions in Russia.

Recommended for you

Engineered metasurfaces reflect waves in unusual directions

February 18, 2019

In our daily lives, we can find many examples of manipulation of reflected waves, such as mirrors, or reflective surfaces for sound that improve auditorium acoustics. When a wave impinges on a reflective surface with a certain ...

Sound waves let quantum systems 'talk' to one another

February 18, 2019

Researchers at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory have invented an innovative way for different types of quantum technology to "talk" to each other using sound. The study, published Feb. 11 in Nature ...

Solid-state catalysis: Fluctuations clear the way

February 18, 2019

The use of efficient catalytic agents is what makes many technical procedures feasible in the first place. Indeed, synthesis of more than 80 percent of the products generated in the chemical industry requires the input of ...

Design principles for peroxidase-mimicking nanozymes

February 18, 2019

Nanozymes, enzyme-like catalytic nanomaterials, are considered to be the next generation of enzyme mimics because they not only overcome natural enzymes' intrinsic limitations, but also possess unique properties in comparison ...

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.