A never-before seen tiny, extraordinary crustacean was lately discovered by scientists in an exploration along the coral reefs of Indonesia's Raja Ampat. The crustacean was found living inside another invertebrate.
With this extraordinary discovery also comes the new species' extraordinary name, L. eltoni, after the famous singer-songwriter Sir Elton John.
A team of scientists from the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography in Florida and the Naturalis Natural History Museum in the Netherlands stumbled upon the crustacean just hanging out in the bronchial chamber of a tall tubular filler feeder, a solitary tunicate.
In their findings published in the online journal ZooKeys, the researchers describe the commensal association between the newly discovered creature and the reef invertebrate on which it was found.
The scientists then examined the tiny animal in the lab and later confirmed this to be a new species. Dr. James Thomas, the study's lead author gave the amphipod the name Leucothoe eltoni.
"I named the species in honor of Sir Elton John because I have listened to his music in my lab during my entire scientific career," explained Thomas. "So when this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting, an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard came to mind."
Now, L. eltoni is reported from the waters of Hawaii as an invasive species. According to Thomas, experts from Honolulu's Bishop Museum contacted him several years ago to help identify an amphipod they had collected and found to be unusual. It turns out the amphipod discovered in Hawaii is of the same species as that of Indonesia. The researchers believe that the amphipod most likely reached the waters of Hawaii by hitching a ride with it tunicate or sponge host that may have been attached to a floating drydock which made its way from Subic Bay in the Philippines and all the way to Hawaii. In 2014, Thomas also visited the Philippines during a California Academy of Science Expedition. The researcher also found the same species to live in the waters of the seven-thousand-island Republic.
In this discovery, Thomas emphasized the importance of regularly monitoring the environment, especially in tropical environments where creatures like the L. eltoni can easily get transported to other parts of the world.