It’s only 3 millimeters long – or 3/32nds of an inch – but it’s a brand new marine animal species and it sports a scientific name nearly every Floridian will recognize. The new isopod was discovered by an international team of scientists at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School.
As for the name, well, that’s what happens when researchers are parrotheads.
The newly discovered critter – Gnathia jimmybuffetti – named after, yes, the rock singer famous for Margarittaville and other well-known tunes. The new species was discovered in the Florida Keys – where Jimmy Buffett is known to hang.
Sikkel’s team are great fans.
“By naming a species after an artist, we want to promote the integration of the arts and sciences,” said Paul Sikkel, whose research team named a similar species from the Caribbean after Bob Marley (Gnathia marleyi).
What did Jimmy Buffet think?
“Has a nice ring to it,” read a post on Buffet’s Facebook page, with a “thanks” emoji and the #whitesportcoat hashtag.
Jimmybuffetti is a member of a group of crustaceans called gnathiid isopods. They were collected using some very high-tech light traps.
The school worked with the North-West University in South Africa to discover the species of cryptofauna – tiny organisms that make up the majority of biodiversity in the ocean, according to a news release in July.
All species in an ecosystem play an important role and all species have something to teach us,” said Sikkel, a research professor in the Department of Marine Biology and Ecology at the Rosenstiel School.
“As we discover new species, we are reminded of how many undiscovered species there still are.”
“Upon examination, it was determined to be a species that was previously unknown to science,” Sikkel said.“It’s the first new Florida gnathiid to be discovered in 100 years.”
The tiny animals are parasitic. The juveniles, the school said it its announcement, feed on the blood of fishes like a mosquito or a tick. The adults do not feed and live hidden in the rubble of the ocean floor.Sikkel’s team have found that above average seawater temperatures – and they have reached records this summer – cause the creatures to die and could affect coral reef food webs, the release said.