A scientist from the Centre for Climate Change Studies at the Sathyabama Institute of Science and Technology and two of his students have identified a new species of marine invertebrate. The researchers’ work has been published in Zootaxa , a peer-reviewed journal based in New Zealand.
S. Prakash, scientist, said that his M. Tech. students M.S. Vignesh and Ruchi P. Jain had been collecting seaweed along the coast of Tamil Nadu for the past two years. “The worm, Tetrastemma freyae , is associated with sediments and is predatory as it has a role in maintaining the food chain. It feeds on dead and decaying material and helps to recycle nutrients in coastal and deep water sediments. The worm uses its proboscis just as a butterfly does to collect nectar,” he said.
The researchers got in touch with Alexei V. Chernyshev at the A.V. Zhirmunsky National Scientific Center of Marine Biology, Vladivostok, an expert in the field to understand the morphology of the species. “He told us that another person in Smithsonian Institute was working on a similar specimen identified in Hawaii,” Mr. Prakash explained.
To the surprise of the researchers, the species identified by Jon L. Norenburg of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History in Smithsonian Institution, had similar morphological characters. The researchers then sequenced the DNA of the organism. “For the first time we used DNA sequencing for Nemertea in our lab. The researcher from Smithsonian also sequenced the DNA in his lab. There was not much divergence between the two species. That is why our discovery was jointly published in the journal,” Mr. Prakash said.
According to Mr. Prakash, the discovery could lead to developing drugs as the species has neurotoxins in its proboscis. “We have also identified two more species which would be further studied,” he said.