Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lyssianasid amphipod forces scientists to rethink definitions

Amphipod in a biosphere

This amphipod is a freshwater cousin of the recently-discovered lyssianasid amphipod. Image from Flickr.

For decades, scientists have worked under the assumption that life, as we know it, is possible only in a very narrow set of circumstances. However, with the recent discovery of the lyssianasid amphipod, a distant cousin of the shrimp you had as an appetizer last weekend, that belief is being quickly broken down. Sure, none of these deep-sea creatures are going to be running a personal loan company anytime soon, but they are already blowing scientists away with their achievements.

What is a lyssianasid amphipod?

The Lyssiansid amphipod is a member of the Lysianassidae family of amphipods. Amphipods include more than 7,000 shrimp-like creatures with exoskeletons - their bones on the outside of their body.

This particular lyssianasid amphipod was captured on video by NASA scientists exploring the underside of Antarctic ice with video cameras. The scientists did not expect to see anything except bacteria in this subfreezing, ultra-dark water - so when this little pink amphipod parked itself on the camera cable, they were truly surprised.

Why is this lyssianasid amphipod special?

With more than 7,000 classified amphipods, what is so special about this lyssianasid amphipod? It's special because it was not expected. For a very long time, scientists assumed that anything above a bacteria could not survive in the extreme environments on the planet. ... click here to read the rest of the article titled "Lyssianasid amphipod forces scientists to rethink definitions"

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