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A species of crustacean with no eyes and venom-injecting fangs has been discovered in an underwater volcanic cave in the Canary Islands off the coast of North Africa.
Researchers discovered the new animal during a diving expedition through the world’s longest submarine lava tube, called the Tunel de la Atlántida, or “tunnel to Atlantis.” The divers were searching for specimens of a closely related crustacean species that they’d discovered 25 years ago in the same cave. But after capturing several of the sea creatures, the researchers noticed something peculiar.
“Some animals were much more active in swimming around than others in the small sample bottles,” said marine biologist Tom Iliffe of Texas A&M University at Galveston, who was part of the team that discovered the new species. “On closer examination, and subsequently with DNA testing, we confirmed that they were actually two different species.”
Their findings appear this month in a special edition of Marine Biodiversity. The new crustacean has been named Speleonectes atlantida, which means “cave swimmer of Atlantis.” It’s a very apt name, Iliffe said, because the creature is a very active swimmer, gliding through the water an undulating fashion.
Because the crustacean lives in near-total blackness of the cave, its body is almost transparent. Through its clear skin, 20 to 24 nearly identical body segments can be seen.