Unsure whether shrimp was a new species, Dr Rajaei asked Martin Schwentner, lead author of the article and researcher at the Vienna Museum of Natural History who studies similar crustaceans in Australia, to take a look. eye. When Dr. Schwentner compared the genetics and morphology of shrimp to the four known species of the genus Phallocryptus, he determined that the shrimp was a new fifth species. Morphological differences between the new shrimp and a Mongolian fairy shrimp, Phallocryptus tserensodnomi, were light: a longer frontal organ and more curved antennae.
According to Dr Alonso, the researchers did not make an unequivocal distinction between the morphology of the new species and that of P. tserensodnomi, which is found in Mongolia, and P. spinosa, which is found elsewhere in Iran. Alireza Sari, a crustacean biologist at the University of Tehran, said he suspected that several of his past finds of P. spinosa may have been P. fahimii.
“The morphology is delicate,” said Dr. Schwentner. “But the genetic difference made it obvious that this was a different species.”
Although shrimp survive very well in the desert, to last 10 days in the Lut is a feat for any human. Temperatures range from 122 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to 35 degrees Fahrenheit at night. The team only had enough water to drink and wash their hands once or twice a day. Swirling dust storms frequently locked them in their cars for hours at a time and even broke several cameras as tiny specks of dust scratched the lenses. “The first five days, the Lut is beautiful and exciting,” said Dr Rajaei. “So that’s boring.”
One night, a dust storm unexpectedly ended in large droplets of rain. “We couldn’t help it, we started dancing,” he says. “I felt like I had lost part of my soul in the desert.”
Researchers named the new fairy shrimp after the expedition herpetologist Dr Fahimi who died in a plane crash in Iran a year after the trip to Lut. As researchers began to publish their findings from the expedition, they also commemorated Dr Fahimi in the name of a spider, Oecobius fahimii, as well as a snake.
The lake where P. fahimii swam, once the size of two pools, has since evaporated, and no one can be sure when it will fill up again. Until then, the eggs in the sand lie in wait.
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