New Bob Marley Species A Bloodsucker

By Amir Khan on July 11, 2012 2:37 PM EDT

Bob Marley
The late Jamaican musician Bob Marley's legacy has grown in an unexpected way (Photo: Creative Commons)

The late Jamaican musician Bob Marley's legacy has grown in an unexpected way. A new species of parasitic crustaceans, Gnathia marleyi, was named after him, researchers announced on Tuesday. The crustaceans infest fish that live in coral reef in the Caribbean.

"I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley's music," Paul Sikkel, an assistant professor of marine ecology at Arkansas State University, said, according to LiveScience. "Plus, this species is as uniquely Caribbean as was Marley."

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Sikkel discovered the species 10 years ago and assumed that it had already been described. However, it had not, and researchers raised a specimen through adulthood.

Gnathids, a kind of isopod, act like the tick of the ocean. They hide in coral and launch surprise attacks on fish and infest them and feed on their blood.

"We believe that adults subsist for two to three weeks on the last feedings they had as juveniles and then die, hopefully after they have reproduced," Sikkel said.

Coral reef communities are on the decline, and researchers think Gnathids may have a role in it. Like ticks, they carry diseases that can decimate the coral population.

"We suspect that coral degradation leads to more available habitat for external parasites to 'launch attacks' on host fishes," Sikkel said. "And as the number of potential host fish decreases, each remaining host will become more heavily parasitized."

The findings were published in the July 6 issue of Zootaxia.

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