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Typically, a deep study of a genus or family can uncover a new species or two. But when it comes to micro mollusks, it turns out, the opportunity for discovery is much greater—if researchers are willing to do the painstaking work required.
After ten years of research, two scientists commissioned by the National Museum of Natural History in Paris have uncovered 209 new species—the most ever defined in a single study of one family."Never have so many species from a single genus, nor even from a single family, been described in one single study," explains Anselmo Peñas, lead author of the study, "if there were a Guinness world record for Science, this would be one without a shadow of a doubt."
Working for more than 10 years, Peñas and his research partner, Emilio Rolán, looked at a the genus Turbonilla which had been discovered over the previous 30 years through a series of ocean surveys.
"The novelty is not only in the description of so many species," Peñas continued, "but also in the fact that they all belong to a single genus, Turbonilla, to a single family." Even in the 19th century, when large species discoveries were common, nothing of this scale has been recorded.
The research, of course, was far from trivial. Micro mollusks are notoriously difficult to identify. To make their classifications, Peñas an Rolán had to compare photos taken with electron microscopes. 1,300 photos it total were taken for the study.
The work, the researchers explained, is still far from over. Next, they will begin looking at other genera in the same family in a study that, they said, is "almost as important as the first one."
Read more about new species discoveries:
94 New Species Described by the California Academy of Sciences in 2009
5,000 Amazing New Undersea Species Discovered in Marine Census (Pics)
Creepy Crawlies Everywhere! A Whopping 850 New Species Discovered Underground in Australia