Two whale-eating shrimp species discovered off Irish coast

10 Aug 2015

Two new species of shrimp that strip the carcasses of whales, fish and seabirds have been discovered off the south-west coast of Ireland, deep beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

The two new species of shrimp fall under the amphipods variety of shrimp and have been called Paracallisoma idioxenos and Haptocallisoma lemarete and live in waters as deep as 4,500m in the northern Atlantic Ocean.

The discovery was made by a team of researchers from the National Oceanographic Centre (NOC) in the UK who managed to catch the two new species with a simple mackerel trap that managed to capture 40,000 amphipods.

The tiny shrimp measure only 3mm in length and tend to travel in swarms, which will descend upon the carcass of a dead animal on the ocean floor and strip it bare over time.

The research team led by Dr Tammy Horton has now published its findings online and has spoken about how it discovered similar creatures during environmental assessments for the oil and gas industry off the coast of Angola in west Africa.

New shrimp

The Paracallisoma alberti species. Image via NOC

The origin of the Latin names given to the two new species derives from Roger Bamber, a recently-deceased taxonomist who was well-regarded in the science of description, naming and classification of animals or plants.

Explaining the names further, Dr Horton said: “I gave the species name ‘lemarete’ to one of the amphipods because it translates from Greek to ‘bold and excellent’, which is the motto on Roger Bamber’s coat of arms.

“I chose this name because it is an accurate description of Roger, as well as being a little cryptic. Roger always put a lot of thought into the names he gave species, such as the tanaid species he named after a many-legged creature in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.”

Atlantic Ocean waves image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic