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Fall 1998

Research Magazine > ARCHIVE > Spring 98 > Article

Carolina Bay Watch
by Patricia West

What is red, white and blue and as tiny as a speck of dust? It’s a newly found copepod, a microscopic cousin of lobster, shrimp and barnacles.

Recently discovered by Barbara E. Taylor and Adrienne DeBiase of UGA’s Carolina's new copepodSavannah River Ecology Laboratory, the newly described species first was collected in freshwater, temporary wetlands — called Carolina bays — on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, S. C. The ecology laboratory is a UGA research unit under contract with the DOE to conduct research at the site.

"We saw it before in a 1987 survey of the bays of the site, but we thought it was a different species," said DeBiase, a research coordinator at the ecology lab.

After closer examination — and verification from colleagues at the Smithsonian Institution — the researchers realized the copepod was quite distinct from the other copepod species they encounter in their work.

This copepod is very colorful, as are most copepods that dwell in habitats with few fish. However, in areas where fish are plentiful, the copepods are "clear, small and skittish," said Taylor, an associate research ecologist at the UGA laboratory.

The most abundant multicelled organisms in the world, copepods are among the thousands of crustacean species that inhabit marine and freshwater environments. An important part of plankton communities as well as food webs, they are eaten by whales, many kinds of fish and even other invertebrates.

Taylor and DeBiase study invertebrate communities of freshwater wetlands to understand the ecology of these microscopic, biologically important animals. Invertebrate communities in wetland ponds have been poorly studied, Taylor said.

"The only other published studies in this area before this was work by Turner in 1910," Taylor said.

So far, the new species has been found only on the Savannah River Site, but DeBiase does not rule out their occurrence in other places.

"There is extraordinary diversity here compared with temporary ponds elsewhere in the world," Taylor said. "There are more copepods here than in some regions of the country."

For more information, e-mail Barbara Taylor at taylor@srel.edu or access www.uga.edu/~srel/


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The bay where the new copepods were found