Research Bags 'Biodiversity Bounty'; Smithsonian Scientists Find Previously Unknown Species in Pacific
Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Things are going swimmingly in some parts of the ocean. Smithsonian Institution scientists announced yesterday they had discovered a "biodiversity bounty" in the Eastern Pacific snails, crabs, shrimp, worms, jellyfish and sea cucumbers, half of which previously were unknown to science.
"Overwhelming diversity," said Jon Norenburg of the National Museum of Natural History, who journeyed to the tropical waters off Panama aboard a 95-foot research vessel with an international team of investigators.
Mr. Norenburg is considered the main worm guy he is the museum's "curator of worms," in fact and has been privy to the secrets of wigglers the size of a speck and 6-foot monsters capable of devouring a crab. His discoveries on the 11-day expedition near Coiba Island left him enthusiastic: More than 50 percent of the ribbon worms he collected have never been seen before, he said.
Rachel Collin of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute also was surprised by the "sheer number" of creatures found scuttling, swimming, drifting and lurking in the vicinity of the research boat on any given day.
"It's hard to imagine, while snorkeling around a tropical island that's only a three-hour flight from the United States, that half the animals you see are unknown to science," Miss Collin said.
Among the stars of the collection was the Tylodina fungina, a brilliant yellow marine snail that lives among and dines upon a species of brilliant yellow sea sponge of the same shade.
Darryl Felder, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette biologist, was particularly taken with the Hymenocera picta harlequin shrimp with its bold brown spots and feisty, paddlelike legs. …