Washington: A new species of hermit crab recently discovered on the barrier reef off the coast of Belize has been named Areopaguristes tudgei - after the American University biologist who first found it.
Christopher Tudge has been interested in biology his whole life, from boyhood trips to the beach collecting crustaceans in his native Australia, to his undergraduate and PhD work in zoology and biology at the University of Queensland.
He has collected specimens all over the world, from Australia to Europe to North and South America.
Until now, he has never had a species named after him. He only found out about his namesake after reading an article about it in the journal Zootaxa.
The two crustacean taxonomists and authors of the paper who named the new crab after Tudge, Rafael Lemaitre of the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and Darryl L. Felder of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette’s Department of Biology Laboratory for Crustacean Research, have known Tudge since he first came to Washington in 1995 as a postdoc research fellow at the Smithsonian.
Lemaitre and Felder have been collecting specimens on the tiny Belizean island for decades and for more than 10 years, they had asked Tudge—who specializes in the structures of crustacean reproduction and how they relate to the creatures’ evolutionary history—to join them on one of their semiannual research outings.
Finally, in February 2010, Tudge joined them on a tiny island covered with hundreds of species of their favorite fauna.
Tudge turned over a coral boulder in an intertidal area, saw 50 or so tiny crabs scrambling around, and stuck a dozen or so specimens in a bottle before going on with his work.
Only later in the lab, under the microscope, was it determined that this isolated little group of hermit crabs might be unique.
“Given this cryptic habitat and the relatively minute size of the specimens (shield length range = 1.0-3.0 mm), it is not surprising that these populations have gone unnoticed during extensive sampling programs that have previously taken place along the Barrier Reef of Belize,” the journal authors wrote.
Tudge only recently found out that Areopaguristes tudgei—a tiny hermit crab differentiated from others in its genus by such characteristics as the hairs growing on some of its appendages—was joining the list of about 3 million known species.