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June 27, 2017

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Researchers reveal latest discovery of new species of prehistoric 'fairy shrimp'

Researchers at the National Museum of Marine Biology Aquarium (NMMBA, 國立海洋生物博物館), said there was a discovery on Orchid Island yesterday of a newly recorded species in Taiwan called "fairy shrimp," becoming Taiwan's second prehistoric "dinosaur" shrimp.

Officials said the fairy shrimp is a member of an ancient species from the same era as the dinosaurs and have been living on Earth for a staggering 200 million years. The first discovery of the fairy shrimp in Taiwan was ten years ago in Xiangtian Lake, Yangmingshan.

Researchers from the NMMBA collected some dirt samples near temporary ponds created by pit shells in the craters of Orchid Island and discovered a pyramid-shaped egg under the microscope later in the lab. After the eggs hatched, they labeled the fairy shrimp a new species in Taiwan.

The NMMBA officials said there are significant differences between the fairy shrimp found in Orchid Island and the ones found in Xiangtian Lake. The eggs found in Xiangtian Lake are round and are predominantly male, while the eggs found in Orchid Island are pyramid-shaped and smaller in size, most of them being female with only 1-2 percent males.

The researchers from NMMBA collaborated with the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in the United States, using DNA sequencing to analyze the fairy shrimp's molecular phylogenetic relationship through their databases. They discovered that the Orchid Island fairy shrimp might actually be closely related to the Queensland fairy shrimp.

The NMMCA officials said the fairy shrimp aren't actually real shrimp; rather, they are classified as branchiopodas in the Linnean Classification System. They are usually 2-4 centimeters long with feather-like gills and shrimp-like tails. Their tails are red and orange with neon green bodies that usually face upwards when active. Fairy shrimp are thus known for their beautiful and colorful appearances.

Officials from NMMCA also pointed out that fairy shrimp have a unique life history. They are noted for their durable eggs that can resist severe dryness, extreme heat and hypothermia as well as other harsh environments. There was also a record in another country of a fairy shrimp egg successfully hatching after ten years.

NMMCA said they will not only start doing intense academic research on fairy shrimp on Orchid Island, they will also establish a sustainable department for biological research.

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