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New marine animal species discovered in Zeeland

The ARISE project dove into the DNA of around 172 different species of marine

animals and discovered several new species. These Marine animals were gathered by

Peter H. van Bragt, a volunteer sampler for Arise These developments are very

important in order to map out the Dutch biodiversity, because there are more sea

animal species in the Netherlands than we thought.

Peter H. van Bragt has gathered 545 marine animals from the Oosterschelde, Grevelingenmeer (Lake Grevelingen) and the Veerse Meer (Lake Veerse). Multiple unknown

species were discovered only from this small sample. The sand slug for instance is a

shellfish that has been very abundant for the last few years in the Grevelingenmeer and in

the Oosterschelde. Now it is discovered that not only one but two species can be found in

the Oosterschelde. The difference in DNA between them is 12%. For comparison the

difference in DNA from humans and great apes is around 9 to 10%. When animals differ

more than 4 to 5 %, we consider them different animal species.

Another example is the sea squirt; startunicate. This one can be found around the whole Dutch coastline, but is also abundant around the whole world. Worldwide, there are 5 different groups known. Now it is discovered that the Dutch population consists of three of the five groups, that is a lot. Worldwide normally only one or two of the groups can be found in a region. The DNA of these three groups differ 11-14% and will be described as different species in time.

The need for DNA research

It doesn’t stop here! One of the nudibranchs turns out to be a still unknown species of sea slug. The genetic difference is 19%. There are much more sea slugs and bristle worms from which new genetical groups came to the surface. From one small sample of 545 sea animals and 172 species, 8 new species have already been discovered.

Why are these new species discovered just now? For bigger animals such as fish or birds, you can easily see which species it is with the naked eye. This is however impossible for smaller animals, because they look visually too much alike. A recreational diver who finds sand slugs during one of his dives won’t be able to differentiate the different species. These animal groups are also often hidden or not accessible. That is why DNA research is so important.

Arise, much more work to do!

The DNA research has been done as part of ARISE, and already delivers spectacular results. This research makes the discovery of new species possible. These new species are however not yet scientifically described, and thus do not have an official name yet. So there is still a lot of work to do! We can expect in the coming years that DNA research will reveal dozens if not hundreds of new species. Dive deeper and discover more about these astonishing sea animals.

Are you an expert like Peter van Bragt? Want to help us out? Check out our Sampling pages for more information!


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