New species discovered in Little Cayman

| 06/07/2011

(CNS): Scientists on the hunt for tiny, complex and elusive worms that live in well- oxygenated sands struck gold recently in Little Cayman. Dr. Rick Hochberg and his team of biologists from the University of Massachusetts who are studying the biodiversity of marine gastrotrichs in the Caribbean, chose to complete part of their research at the Little Cayman Research Centre (LCRC) because of its pristine environment the facilities at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI). Not only did they find what they were looking for but were astonished and excited by how much gastrotrich biodiversity they saw in Little Cayman.  In one week they discovered 15 new species of gastrotrich worms which they hope will be confirmed through DNA tests.

There are about 800 known gastrotrich species, Dr Hochberg said but there could be as many as 10,000 and his mission is to discover and describe as many of them as he can.
In Little Cayman he has found enough of these complex species to warrant expanding his work and plans to develop a manual about these little worms and intends to host a workshop at the Little Cayman Research Centre, placing Cayman firmly on the map of serious scientific research.

The clock is ticking on the scientists working in the field of gastrotrichs as a result of climate change and habitat degradation which threaten to wipe out species before they are even discovered. “Many of these microscopic worms will be lost before they are even discovered,” the CCMI said in a release issued about Dr. Hochberg’s project.
The CCMI said that this kind of research is vital for understanding the extent of biodiversity on earth and the genetic methods that Dr. Hochberg is using to determine which species are new and how they are related will help shed morelight on how speciation and evolution happen.

One gastrotrich which the team has discovered (Urodasys viviparous) has a very curious trait — it is a worm that gives birth to live young.  This is seen in many other creatures including sea horses, sharks, and mammals (including humans) but worms and related organisms are generally known to lay eggs.  This proves that there is still so much to be learned about how animals live and why similar traits are found in so many different, and apparently unrelated, groups of animals.

The Central Caribbean Marine Institute was incorporated in 1998 as a non-profit 501c3 organization.  CCMI was established as an international charitable organization after becoming incorporated in the Cayman Islands in 2002 and in the UK in 2004. Since its first years, CCMI has proven a valuable asset to the effort of understanding changing coral reef and tropical marine environments, and its research and education programs have established a solid foundation for future reef education and awareness in the Caribbean and for students and researchers from around the world.

A key component of the organization's strategy was realized in May 2006 with the opening of the Little Cayman Research Center.  Equipped with wet and dry laboratories, a classroom, library, dormitory-style and private rooms and a sustainable off-the-grid bathhouse as well as easy access to the reefs the Station is an important new research and education centre for all of the Cayman Islands and enables programmes like Ocean Literacy to be taught in optimum surroundings for learning.


Category: Science and Nature

Comments (23)

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  1. visitorfromnj says:

    There was a bug that I saw in June.  It had eyes that illuminated a bright green!!  I checked to see what it is and it is a bug known to Florida.  It is the click beetle or cucollo.  Cayman Islands has many creatures from all over the world, bugs, fish, lizards, etc that should not be there!!  Research into these creatures is needed because they can be invasive to the native species!  There is always money for research, in any field!  They do let people starve to death, die from diseases because of no insurance, allow immigration, protect those who should not be protected, etc…but research gets the money!

  2. Anonymous says:

    We could start a gastrotrich farm!

    bring the cruiseshippers!

    make worm stew!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I'm pretty sure this is what was found on Monica Lewinsky's famous blue dress.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Darn I was hoping that they might have found proof that "Honestus Politicianus Caymanensis" was not extinct.

    • Pending says:

      This discovery coincides with Big Mac taking the month off from the LA. This is now clear proof that he is burying his head in the sand again.

  5. Libertarian says:

    Life in all its shapes and sizes!

    I always say, like human perception can never exist without human consciousness; or, one can never wake up in the morning and experience life as they know it without being made conscious – so for this existence and experience (another state of consciousness), who can ever in their feeble minds think that life has no author???  Who can say that there is no higher intelligence, no Source, no originator of all things beyond him or her self? 

    People, like our very consciousness, the microscopic world, is a testament, is proof to us that all things (whether evolutionary or not evolutionary), can never be by a mere chance of natural selections. The purpose of everything is to exist and nobly dissipate in its own appointed time, because there is a God (beyond human and religious definition), that made those things to be so in their unique and beautiful variations.

    • Atheist says:

      There is none as blind as those that do not want to see.  We need no magic to explain any of this.  Trying asking the creatures tortured by a death from parasitic infestation from another of "God's creations" whether their dissipation was "noble". 

      • Libertarian says:


        You say your an atheist, but everyone disbelieves in a certain God or concept of God. Therefore everyone, even a christian, may be deemed by another as an atheist. I am an athiest, because I don't believe in the "old testament christian view" of God; moreover, any God that stems from an irrational religious belief. So I must ask which one are you an atheist for before you start condemning a viewpoint that has nothing to do with my definition? To raise the question that there is no God, is not being rational when everyone does not hold the same "concept or belief" in God.  

        Death now… is still a noble process, because it entails giving up your self-identity or physical manifestation, back to cyclic existence. It is negative thinking combined with the pain that may come before death that turns death into a horrible event. But death is never separated from this life – it is a part of life. My God is a God of death. God is realistic – a God of today, here and now.

        God is consciousness, existence, the source, personal experience, and of all intelligences. God is not a he or she. God can never be personified by our limited minds, but God is personal as well as impersonal.


    • Kung Fu Iguana says:

      An ultra-libertarian right wing creationist?  Are you Michele Bachmann in disguise?

      • Libertarian says:

        lol… well I won't say creationist, because creationist believe in the Bible creation. I love the Bible, but I don't agree with everything in the Bible to be taken literally. I believe in evolution as well. As to right-wing, I see myself more centered.

        But I do in my own way, know (and not merely believe) that there is a Supreme God. But I can't imagine God as being a Christian God that endorses killing disbelievers and destroying cities by the hand of Joshuas like in the Old Testament. To me, that's terrorism.

      • Anonymous says:

        I like Michele Bachmann. I hope she kicks out Obama in 2012. We need a Woman President. It would be good for Cayman and U.S. citizens in Cayman if she gets elected.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Just imagine what Noah had to go through . . . .

    We have 25,000 people dying each day from hunger, we can't solve that problem. but we do have the time and money to find a bug.


    • Anonymous says:

      How do you find the time to write on a blog with all those people dying from hunger?

  7. Kent says:

    Revenue! Awesome!


    I wonder if we could divest the exclusivity of these creatures increasing our GDP contributions supported by the lesser islands therefore decreasing the subsidy needed by them.  If not possibly we could invest a small sum $60-70 million in to developing a marine based park that would focus on the new discovery, we could get a hell of a deal if we piggy backed it with the port project, as they could simiply load an extra 10,000 Chinese nationals on the boats that are going to be leaving next month on route to Grand Cayman.


    This could be our savior!  Hell this could be as big as Dippin' Dots!!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I saw something in the turtle grass near the CCMI a few weeks ago and in a flash it was gone.  I've scoured the books and am still not sure what it was.  There is definitely more micro stuff out there that we have not classified.

  9. Sea Life Lover says:

    This is great news!! There are so many unique species in Cayman, it is good to know that they would be properly documented and studied before they are destroyed.

  10. C-Man 2 the Bone and Proud of It says:

    Just curious as to what exactly is this?

    I don't understand what it suppose to be!

    • Truthseeker says:

      Let Google and Wikipedia be your friends and guide you in your quest for knowledge.

      • Cow Itch says:

        It seems to me that Truthseeker is suggesting that people empower themselves by using the internet to expand their knowledge. It is difficult for a thinking individual to understand the few thumbs down. If they actually have a point, please explain.

        • Anonymous says:

          The thumbs down may have been due to the tone fo the comment. I've not thumbed up some comments in the past, even if I agree with (most) of the point the person is making, because of how they made it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    This is great and will bring more tourists to Cayman.