1 Jan 2007

Khasilon, Blind Israeli Cave Shrimp

Dear Blue Lobster:

i heard that there's a new species of shrimp discovered in israel do you know anything about this as the jewish people are forbidden to eat seafood

thx,
ari

Dear Gentle Sir:

Back in June of 2006, scientists announced the discovery of a new subterranean cave system found near the city of Ramle in Israel complete with several new unique species. Among these new species were a decopod crustacean the scientists have dubbed khasilon, which is Hebrew for shrimp or crab.

Five million years ago, the Mediterranean Sea formed when the tectonic plates of Africa and Eurasia broke down upon collision. Since then, the sea has shrunk slightly and one underwater cave system was left with a sampling of lake species. In the millions of years since they were cut off from the rest of the sea, they evolved to match their changing environ and eventually became what scientists discovered last year.

One species is a completely translucent scorpion that has evolved the stinger on its tail into a claw like those on its forelimbs.

A species of spider has apparently grown so large that it can catch fish, and does so by trapping an insect in its web, then lowering the creature down to the water on a single thread. When fish come to investigate the bait, the spider reaches down, entraps the fish, and takes it back up to its web for later dining.

There are also species of fish with no eyes but large gill plates that serve as echolocation receptors, species of lichen that glow in the dark, and a centipede that grows up to a meter long and can the eat its own posterior segments when food is scarce. The most interesting new species found in these caves, however, is the khasilon.

A blind, white decapod pleocymate crustacean, the khasilon has not yet been classified. It most resembles a shrimp, but has features of known crayfish and lobster species and scientists are currently awaiting molecular data before they assign it a scientific name. Its behavior and physiology are well-documented, however, and are one-of-a-kind in the animal kingdom.

Though most specimens were found in brackish water, others were found in fresh and salt water, meaning the species has a high tolerance for different water chemistries. It also has a unique way of catching food: the khasilon remains completely still in a shallow pool of water and waits for an animal to fall into the water, rarely moving otherwise. And its sedentary nature also matches its metabolism.

As a means of adaption to a habitat without light, the khasilon ages incredibly slowly. Most specimens found were five to eight centimeters long and took up to thirty years to reach that size. One moulted exoskeleton exceeded 60 centimeters in length and was thought to belong to a khasilon that was over 1,000 years old, a record-holding age among animals.

Labs are currently processing DNA tests of the khasilon and other species, hoping not only to place them in current taxonomy, but also to find clues to how life exists in extreme environments. Stay tuned as more information becomes available on this mysterious ecosystem!

3 comments:

chris said...

How did they make the Lobster blue? ;-)

Chris Chimwich said...

Dear Gentle Sir:

An excellent question, and perhaps I can answer for you in the near future.

Chris Chimwich

Jay said...

Hello,
I am seeking more information on the cave you write about above. Where did you get your information talking about the 60cm exoskeleton?
I cant seem to find any information on the internet.

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