Newsroom

New Species of Comb Jelly in South Florida Gets a Name

University of Miami-led team resurrects a 1960s study to re-discover and name a new species

MIAMI – Scientists have recently re-discovered and named a new species in the waters off South Florida. The tiny, translucent jellyfish-like animals – called ctenophores or comb jellies – were found living symbiotically with octocorals – sea rods, sea fans – in the waters off South Florida. The University of Miami (UM)-led research team named the new species of creeping ctenophore after the founder of the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, F.G. Walton Smith.

The newly discovered ctenophore was initially studied in the 1960s by Smithsonian Institution scientist and former Rosenstiel School Professor Frederick Bayer (now deceased) on octocorals in Miami’s Biscayne Bay, but only recently did UM Rosenstiel School Professor Peter Glynn re-analyze and classify the comb jelly to give it a name: Coeloplana waltoni.

Working off Bayer’s initial findings, Glynn and colleagues collected new branch clippings from various octocoral species off the coast of Dania Beach near Ft. Lauderdale to have living specimens for additional study. Under careful examination, Glynn’s team was able to determine that both the living and preserved (50+ years) species were identical, and new to science.

The minute, yet abundant animals measure about five millimeters in length when fully extended or “creeping” and 1.5-2 millimeters when free floating. Coeloplana waltoni was named in honor of UM Rosenstiel School founder F.G. Walton Smith, since he was the first scientist to recognize the occurrence of bottom-dwelling ctenophores in American waters. Specimens of this unique species have been cataloged in the Rosenstiel School's Invertebrate Museum collections for further study.

"Recent molecular genetic studies have shown that ctenophores are a stem group that gave rise to all of Earth’s animal phyla," said Glynn, professor emeritus at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of the study.

The study, titled “Coeloplana waltoni, a new species of minute benthic ctenophore (Ctenophora: Platyctenida) from south Florida,” was published in the September issue of the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. The study’s authors include: Peter W. Glynn of the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science; D. Abigail Renegar of the National Coral Reef Institute at Nova Southeastern University and Frederick M. Bayer of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

Coeloplana waltoni. Aboral view of living free-floating specimen (~ 2 mm length). Collected off Dania Beach, 22 July 2013.
Coeloplana waltoni. Aboral view of living free-floating specimen (~ 2 mm length). Collected off Dania Beach, 22 July 2013.

###

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
The University of Miami is one of the largest private research institutions in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, visit: www.rsmas.miami.edu.

Tags:
research •  invertebrates •