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Australian Fairy Shrimp Responding to Environmental Changes

Reference
Pinceel, T., Vanschoenwinkel, B., Waterkeyn, A., Vanhove, M.P.M., Pinder, A., Timms, B.V. and Brendonck, L. 2013. Fairy shrimps in distress: a molecular taxonomic review of the diverse fairy shrimp genus Branchinella (Anostraca: Thamnocephalidae) in Australia in the light of ongoing environmental change. Hydrobiologia 700: 313-327.
The authors of this study write that "Australia, and especially South-Western Australia, is a diversity hotspot for large branchiopod crustaceans," a large proportion of which is found in the Branchinella genus that is comprised of at least 34 species that "are found exclusively in temporary aquatic habitats which are increasingly threatened by secondary salinization and other anthropogenic pressures," including "unsustainable agriculture, mining, river regulation, groundwater resource development and climate change."

Concerned about the ability of these several fairy shrimp species to sustain themselves in the face of the environmental pressures that currently confront them, Pinceel et al. (2013) constructed "a molecular phylogeny based on a data set which includes about 85% of the Branchinella species currently known to science, as well as a number of recently discovered lineages," in order to evaluate to what extent there is support for the large number of species that are known to inhabit the temporary aquatic habitats of the region.

The seven scientists report that their efforts revealed "the presence of at least three new cryptic species," plus the fact that "some Branchinella lineages, surviving in environments subjected to contrasting selection regimes, appeared to be conspecific."

Pinceel et al. thus conclude that their findings suggest the existence of "substantial physiological plasticity or important adaptive variation present in some species, potentially enabling them to better cope with environmental change."

Apparently, the little shrimp are tougher or smarter (or perhaps we should say more adequately genetically-endowed) than they look. And perhaps that is why they are still there for us to look at them.

Archived 15 May 2013