New genus of tiny marine creature named after museum biologist
July 6, 2021
Ed Hendrycks knows a thing or two about amphipods—tiny crustaceans that live on or near the seafloor. After all, he has been studying them for more than three decades during his career in the Canadian Museum of Nature’s zoology section.
Through collaborations with colleagues, he has described about 100 new species of these often tiny crustaceans. One even made a prestigious international list of Top 10 species for 2014.
In recognition of his taxonomic expertise, Hendrycks has now been honoured with what he acknowledges is a “nice surprise”. Russian scientist Vjacheslav S. Labay has immortalized the name of the museum Senior Research Assistant with a new genus of amphipod: Hendrycksopleustes.
Amphipods populate the world’s oceans, from the deepest trenches far beyond the realm of light, to tidal habitats along shorelines. They play a vital role in food webs, as they recycle nutrients that sustain many forms of marine life.
The single species in the new genus, Hendrycksopleustes neimanii, belongs to the family Pleustidae. Hendrycks explains that these are mostly cold-water amphipods, found mainly in the northern ranges of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. They vary in size from a few mm to about three cm, and most live in sub-tidal zones at depths of a few hundred metres or less.
Pleustids are benthic “micro-predators” that live mostly on or near the sea-floor, catching tiny invertebrates and also consuming organic detritus. Hendrycks says that some contain foul-tasting chemicals that deter predators.
Others have bright colours or striped patterns that mimic other organisms, so as to avoid being eaten by fish. One of these, Chromopleustes lineatus, was described by Hendrycks and Dr. Ed Bousfield in 1995 from the north Pacific, off the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia and California.
In fact, Hendrycks has described more than 60 pleustid amphipods over the decades, mainly in collaboration with Bousfield, the mentor who set him on his scientific path. Bousfield, who passed away in 2016, was a world expert on amphipods. He built the Canadian Museum of Nature’s world-class collection of aquatic invertebrates over four decades from the 1950s to the 1980s.
So, what’s next for Ed? He plans to continue taxonomic work on specimens he collected during two Atlantic deep-sea expeditions in 2005 and 2009. There is also material awaiting study from Canada’s Beaufort Sea, which was acquired during projects under the direction of retired museum scientist Dr. Kathy Conlan.
There might even be some new discoveries—for which Hendrycks will then have the pleasure of memorializing scientists who have inspired him.