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Isopod: Working as Architect, Builder

ESF Top 10 New Species of 2016

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  • Iuiuniscus iuiuensis: dorsal view
    Photo credit: Souza, Ferreira & Senna

  • Iuiuniscus iuiuensis: in its habitat
    Photo credit: Souza, Ferreira & Senna

  • Iuiuniscus iuiuensis in the process of molting, a er the opening of the shelter
    Photo credit: Souza, Ferreira & Senna

  • Iuiuniscus iuiuensis: dorsal view
    Photo credit: Souza, Ferreira & Senna

About the Isopod

Name: Iuiuniscus iuiuensis

Location: Brazil

How it made the Top 10: This might be the 15 minutes of fame that isopods (crustaceans that live in water or on land; think "pillbug") have been waiting for. This blind, unpigmented, multilegged animal represents a new subfamily, genus and species of amphibious isopod discovered in a South American cave. It has a behavior never seen before in its family: It constructs shelters of mud. The cave where the species was discovered has its only entrance at the bottom of a sinkhole and its inner chambers are flooded during the rainy season. Eight other caves in the region were explored, but the new species was found in only one. This isopod, just over 9 mm (a third of an inch) in length, builds spherical, irregularly shaped shelters in which it molts. While shedding its exoskeleton, it is especially vulnerable to predators. Some Palearctic isopods are known to build shelters, but this is a first for the New World. The new species is unique among its Brazilian cave-inhabiting relatives in having tapering plates at the base of its legs that give it a spiny appearance.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Malacostraca

Order: Isopoda

Family: Styloniscidae

Size: 9.2 mm (about a third of an inch)

Etymology: Named for the type locality, Iuiú

Type locality: Brazil, Bahia, Iuiú, in Lapa do Baixão cave

Holotype: Universidade Federal da Bahia, Instituto de Biologia, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

More information: Leila A. Souza, Rodrigo L. Ferreira, and André R. Senna. 2015. Amphibious shelter-builder Oniscidea species from the New World with description of a new subfamily, a new genus, and a new species from Brazilian cave (Isopoda, Synocheta, Styloniscidae). PLOS One 10 (5): e0115021. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115021

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