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#AceNewsDesk – A new native shrimp species has been recognised by the scientific community after a fisherman caught thousands of the tiny invertebrates in the Gippsland Lakes.
The shrimp, identified as belonging to the Caprelloidea crustacean family, has been nicknamed “skeleton shrimp” due to its narrow, cylindrical body.
Zoologist Shane Ahyong, head of marine invertebrates research at the Australian Museum Research Institute (AMRI), said the shrimp usually went unnoticed because they “look like slivers of seaweed”.
“We need to know about them because some species are important food for fish, others tell us about the health of marine ecosystems, and still others are a biosecurity problem by fouling mussel lines,” Professor Ahyong said.
“The new find from the Gippsland Lakes is exciting because it’s a native species, highlighting how much there is to discover in our marine waters, even in areas we think are well known.”
About 10 species of skeleton shrimp have previously been identified in Australia.
Like fairy floss
Fisherman Matt Jenkins, who operated a commercial fishing business on the Gippsland Lakes before the 2021 Victorian government ban, was shocked when he noticed the shrimp in his nets during a 2018 fishing trip.
“It was … almost like a fairy floss, floating in the water and sticking to the nets. It’s very hard to describe, but they coated the nets,” he said.
“I thought, ‘what the heck is this?’
“It wasn’t until I used my phone and zoomed in on it that I could see it was a weird-looking shrimp.”
Mr Jenkins sent samples to the AMRI, where scientists analysed them.A drawing of the similar Japanese species, Caprella acanthogaster.(Supplied: Australian Museum)none
A statement from the AMRI said close inspection showed the specimen was very similar to a species found in Japan.
But when comparing the species, scientists found the shrimp from Japan were about twice the size of those gathered by Mr Jenkins and had fewer segments in its antenna.
They eventually deemed the variations, along with several other distinctions in size and shape, enough to categorise it as a different species.
The same shrimp species was found in Mercury Passage on Tasmania’s east coast between 1993 and 1996, but researchers at the time had believed the specimens had arrived from Japan through scallop farming.
It was not until the recent Gippsland Lakes discovery that researchers have understood the importance of the find.
The new Australian species will be named Caprella tamboensis.
Mr Jenkins said he had been fishing for more than 20 years and had never seen anything like the shrimp.
He said he was “quite chuffed” to have contributed to its formal identification.
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