A newly discovered tiny shrimp species with hairy feet is named after Bilbo Baggins, the lead character of JRR Tolkien's 1973 novel The Hobbit.
The new shrimp species is officially named Odontonia bagginsi by Werner de Gier, a biology student from the Leiden University in The Netherlands. The species was discovered around Ternate and Tidore in Indonesia.
The Bagginsi is amazingly small, barely reaching 1 centimeter in length. Its hairy feet, however, is its most unique feature.
"The species is named 'bagginsi,' inspired by the famous Hobbit family name, 'Baggins,' featured in 'The Hobbit' and 'The Lord of the Rings' books. The fictional characters, called 'Hobbits,' possess hairy feet comparable to this species," De Gier wrote in the study published in ZooKeys.
Fans of "The Lord Of The Rings" would remember Bilbo Baggins as the halfling who accidentally acquired the One Ring of power from Smeagol in the prequel.
Interestingly, the Bagginsi joins an already long list of animal species that were named after the characters created by Tolkien. These species include the arachnid harvestman, which was named Landumoema smeagol, the golden lizard Liolaemus smaug, and the subterranean spiders named Ochyrocera lasagna and Ochyrocera ungoliant.
Two New Shrimps Species
De Gier, together with Dr. Charles Fransen, a shrimp researcher from the Naturalis Biodiversity Center at the university, have actually named and described two new shrimp species.
The other new shrimp species is a close relative to the bagginsi and is named Odontonia plurellicola. Both shrimps were found to be living symbiotically inside tunicates instead of holes in the sand as what more popularly known shrimp species do.
Tunicates are marine invertebrates that are more commonly known as sea squirts. They have bodies and several pairs of tubular openings that resemble pouches where they draw or expel water.
The researchers believed that bagginsi and plurellicola could thrive inside the hollow spaces in the body of their hosts. Their small sizes and smooth bodies, in fact, may have been shaped by their small habitat.
De Gier and Fransen assigned the bagginsi and plurellicola to the Odontonia group because their legs, mouthparts, and carapace resemble other shrimp species, which were already identified under Odontonia.
The discovery of bagginsi and plurellicola is significant because it gives further insight into the actual anatomical features of the rest of the Odontonia species.
As for the bagginsi, its genetic information and images obtained through Scanning Electron Microscope provided a major insight to how the species group would be distinguished from each other.