Wildlife & Biodiversity

Researchers find new crustacean in Odisha’s Chilika lagoon

Parhyale odian is brown in colour and around eight millimetres in length; it has 13 pairs of legs

By Hrusikesh Mohanty
Published: Friday 16 February 2024
Photo provided by Hrusikesh Mohanty

Researchers at Odisha’s Berhampur University have discovered a new species of marine amphipod — a shrimp-like crustacea of genus Parhyale — from the state’s Chilika Lake, Asia’s biggest brackish water lagoon on India’s east coast.

The new species has been named Parhyale odian after Odisha’s native language, Odia, as the species was collected there, said Shesdev Patro, assistant professor, Department of Marine Science, Berhampur University. He is one of the four researchers involved in discovering the new species.

The present contribution has added one more species to the genus Parhyale, raising the global species number in the group to 16, he said.

The characteristics of the newly discovered crustacean were described in an article titled A new species of amphipod of the genus Parhyale from Chilika lagoon, India in the online edition of journal Zootaxa, on February 14, 2024.

The researchers collected at least four specimens of the species from the intertidal region of the Chilika lagoon at Barkul in Odisha’s Ganjam district, along with the seaweed Gracilaria on November 24, 2022 by handpicking. The marine amphipod was separated from other seaweeds for the study.

“After a thorough survey and testing in the university laboratory, we have reached the conclusion that it is a new species and different from other 15 found globally,” said Gitanjali Bhoi, research scholar and co-author of the article.

Alan Myers of University College Cork, Ireland, who has made a significant contribution to global marine amphipod studies, has also confirmed that the latest species is a new one and different from others in the genus, said Patro.

The specimens have been deposited in the Zoological Survey of India’s Estuarine Biology Regional Centre at Odisha’s Gopalpur-On-Sea for further research, said Suchismita Sahu, another researcher and the third co-author.

The study has revealed that the new species is brown in colour and around eight millimetres in length. It has 13 pairs of legs. The first pair of legs is used for capturing prey and feeding, said Patro.

The newly discovered Parhyale odian differs from all other 15 species by having a stout robust seta — a spine-like structure on the surface of the propodus of the male gnathopod (first pair of legs).

The genus Parhyale was first reported by Stebbing in 1899 from the Virgin Islands. The genus is represented by 15 species globally, occupying both marine and brackish water environments. The genus is cosmopolitan, distributed in intertidal and littoral environments along tropical and warm temperate regions. They are mostly found underneath stones with attached vegetation and also in the burrows of isopods, the researchers said.

Amphipods are a significant group in the marine ecosystem and play a vital role in the marine food chain. They also serve as indicators for studying the impact of climate change and health of coastal ecosystems, he said. Further research will delve deeper into understanding the specific ecological roles of amphipods in coastal and marine environments, Patro said.

Patro and Bhoi discovered three other marine amphipods — two from the Chilika Lake and one from the West Bengal coast in 2023. The duo had discovered Quadrivisio chilikensis from the seaweeds near Nalaban, the bird sanctuary area of Chilika lake and Demaorchestia alanensis from Barkul beach in the area. The Talorchestia buensis — another amphipod — was found from the West Bengal coastal area, he added. 

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