16 years after its discovery, the crustacean is labeled a new species
Deep beneath coral rubble in reefs off the coast of Guam, there lives a pale, black-eyed crab whose true taxonomic character has long been unknown.
In 2001, amateur researcher Harry Conley discovered the translucent crab burrowing among reef rocks. Eventually, two specimens — each several millimeters long — came to the lab of biologist Peter Ng at the National University of Singapore. Now, Ng and colleague Jose Mendoza have identified the quirky crustacean as a new species and bestowed on it the moniker Harryplax severus, the researchers report January 23 in ZooKeys.
The genus name honors two Harrys: Conley, who died in 2002 and had a reputation for finding otherworldly ocean critters, and Harry Potter, the titular character in J.K. Rowling’s popular books. Mendoza, a Potter fan, suggested the species designation severus — a reference to the books’ notoriously uptight and misjudged Severus Snape, whose true nature remains elusive until the series’ end.
H. severus belongs to a group of crabs first found in shadowy caves on Christmas Island. With small beady eyes, well-developed antennae, washed-out coloration and long legs, the crabs are suited to the dimly lit nooks and crannies of Guam’s rubble beds — a place where Snape, a prickly potions master who worked in a dungeon, might feel right at home.
J. Mendoza and P. Ng. Harryplax severus, a new genus and species of an unusual coral rubble-inhabiting crab from Guam (Crustacea, Brachyura, Christmaplacidae). ZooKeys. Vol. 647, January 23, 2017, p. 23. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.647.11455.
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