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Discovered new crustaceans in the hottest place on Earth

The biologists found a species of freshwater crustacean that was never described during an expedition to the Lut Desert in Iran.

The new species is identified in the genus Phallocryptus which includes only 4 species of crustaceans that live in arid and semi-arid regions. Dr. Hossein Rajaei from Germany’s Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History and Dr. Alexander V Rudov from Tehran University of Iran by chance discovered the creature in an attempt to understand the ecosystem, biodiversity and geomorphology in the Lut desert.

The team named the new species Phallocryptus fahimii in honor of the conservation biologist Hadi Fahimi, who joined the expedition in 2017 and unfortunately died in a plane crash in 2018.

P. fahimii was discovered in a seasonal freshwater lake in the south of the desert. It has distinct morphology and genetic characteristics from all known Phallocryptus species.

A new species of freshwater crustacean discovered in the Lut desert. Photo: M. Pallmann SMNS / Pallmann.

“During an expedition to a place as harsh as the Lut Desert, you must always be vigilant, especially when water is found. The discovery of new crustaceans in such a hot, scorching environment is truly a discovery.” surprise, “said Rajaei in a Zoology in the Middle East magazine article.

According to Dr. Martin Schwentner, a crustacean expert from Austria’s Vienna Museum of Natural History and co-author of the study, Phallocryptus species can survive for decades in dry sediments and when the rainy season comes. They revive strongly in seasonal lakes.

“Phallocryptus is perfectly adapted to the desert environment. The fact that they can survive even in the harsh conditions of the Lut desert further highlights this crustacean’s viability,” said Schwentner.

Lut or Dasht-e Lut is the second largest desert in Iran and is known as the hottest place on Earth. It covers an area of 51,800 square kilometers and holds the record for the highest surface temperature ever recorded. Based on satellite measurements from 2006, NASA reported that the surface temperature of the desert once reached 80.3 ° C. The average annual rainfall here does not exceed 30 mm.

Dasht-e Lut has almost no vegetation. The lakes are not filled often so the aquatic flora is also very limited. Much of the desert has been described as an abiotic region.

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