Flat-headed 'monster' found beneath Arctic ice
Friday, October 20, 2017, 12:54 PM - New research published this week touts what the University of Manitoba calls, tongue-in-cheek, 'Canada’s first, genuine, scientifically sound monster.'
Properly called Monstrillopsis planifrons, or 'flat-headed monster,' the new creature discovered under the ice of Canada's Arctic has eight legs and one eye as it plies the waters. Sounds scary, but despite its name, there's nothing to fear: It's 2 mm long, and has no mouth, so it couldn't eat you even if it wanted to.
It's a kind of zooplankton, and its discoverer, grad student Aurelie Delaforge, wasn't even looking for it specifically. Delaforge was working out of an ice camp near Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, testing a separate thesis about phytoplankton blooms under the ice, when she hauled up specimens of the creature.
Specimen of Monstrillopsis planifrons, or flat headed monster. Credit: Aurelie Delaforge
As an illustration of how often luck can play a role in scientific discovery, Delaforge happened to find the specimens during a time of year when they would have been mature adults. At other times, they would have been either near-microscopic larvae, or else living as a parasite within other animals.
Though the university days there are some 160 species of this kind of zooplankton, this was the first to be found in Canadian Arctic waters
“When we study the Arctic, there are still things we don’t know. This is a good example,” Delaforge said in a release from the university. “I find this pretty cool. It’s not an everyday thing, discovering new species and it feels incredible. I wasn’t looking to find a new species for my PhD, but for me personally, who loves taxonomy, I think this is really important because it brings new information on the biodiversity present in the Arctic. It’s important to know what’s there.”
Delaforge's findings were published this week in the journal ZooKeys.