Mini, eightlegged “monster” discovered lurking under Canadian Arctic sea ice

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A new species has been found paddling along the subsurface of the Arctic Ocean – a discovery that marks the first of its kind in Canada.

Aurelie Delaforge, University of Manitoba PhD student at the Centre for Earth Observation Science, first stumbled upon a new form of Monstrilloida zooplankton in the icy waters of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, in 2014. More than 160 different species of these “mini monsters” exist around the world, but none were known to live in Canada, until now.

The findings were published in the journal ZooKeys on Thursday, detailing Delaforge’s discovery of “the first record of Monstrillopsis in Canadian waters.”

“When we study the Arctic, there are still things we don’t know. This is a good example,” Delaforge said in a press release. 

The new crustacean, dubbed the Monstrilloida zooplankton, is just two millimetres long. It has eight legs, a translucent body, one feeble eye, no mouth, and two antennae.

Considering its uncanny appearance, the species was aptly named after the word “monster” – or, in the case of Canada’s new Monstrillopsis planifrons, “flat-headed monster.”

Monstrilloida zooplankton are known to have drifted below the surface of the Arctic Ocean for some time. The first discovery of the species’ presence in the Arctic was in 2004, Delaforge and her colleagues noted in their findings. 

Delaforge first uncovered the species while taking ocean samples for her PhD thesis, which focused on the cause of plankton blooms under sea ice. 

The timing was ideal: Delaforge collected the samples during May and June, the two-month span of time where these plankton take their adult form. At any other time of the year, the species would’ve been almost invisible, the University of Manitoba said in a press release.

Delaforge then sent the specimen to Mexico, where the species” identity was confirmed.

“I find this pretty cool,” Delaforge said in a statement. “It’s not an everyday thing, discovering new species, and it feels incredible.”

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