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Amoeboid Protist: Body Builder from the Mediterranean
Top 10 New Species of 2014

  • Spiculosiphon oceana is a giant (4 cm), carnivorous single-celled protist
    Photo credit: Courtesy of Manuel Maldonado

  • General view of the holotype (bottom) and the paratype (top)
    Photo credit: Courtesy of Manuel Maldonado

  • Detail of the proximal end of a stalk, showing that it is a closed structure, slightly expanded into a bulb-like form.
    Photo credit: Courtesy of Manuel Maldonado

  • Detail of capitate region of the holotype, showing the globelike, central structure and the radiating tracts of spicules
    Photo credit: Courtesy of Manuel Maldonado

  • Tightly packed spicules, slightly twisting with respect to the stalk axis
    Photo credit: Courtesy of Manuel Maldonado

Amoeboid Protist: Body Builder from the Mediterranean
Top 10 New Species of 2014

About the Amoeboid Protist

Name: Spiculosiphon oceana

Kingdom: Animalia

Family: Stegnamminidae

How it made the Top 10: This one-celled organism is four to five centimeters high (1.5 to two inches), making it a giant in the world of single-celled creatures. This foram (part of a distinct group among the many amoeboids) from the Mediterranean Sea gathers pieces of silica spicules, which are actually sponge fragments, from its surroundings and uses them like so many Lego blocks to construct a shell. It ends up looking much like a carnivorous sponge as well as feeding like one, extending pseudopods (a protist's version of arms) outside the shell to feed on invertebrates that have become trapped in the spiny structures. This species was discovered in underwater caves 30 miles off the southeast coast of Spain. Interestingly, they are the same caves where carnivorous sponges were first discovered.

Etymology: The species name "oceana" is to honor the non-profit organization for ocean conservation OCEANA, which was responsible for the field collection of the type material.

Type material: Holotype and paratype at the National Museum of Natural Sciences of Madrid

Type locality: The "Seco de Palos" sea mountain, Western Mediterranean, Spain

Reference: Maldonado M, López-Acosta M, Sitjà C, Aguilar R, García S, Vacelet J. 2013. A giant foraminifer that converges to the feeding strategy of carnivorous sponges: Spiculosiphon oceana sp. nov. (Foraminifera, Astrorhizida). Zootaxa 3669: 571–584.

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