Mystery Arthropod

By Nicole Webster

My squishy mystery on first inspection ~1mm in length Credit: N Webster

While sorting out my hatchlings (Nucella lamellosa and N. ostrina) I came across something bizarre. A tiny red dot to the eye, a grotesque writhing blob under the microscope. What is it? Although difficult to see, it clearly has segmented appendages in the anterior region, making it an arthropod. If it was just a segmented body, then it could be an annelid (polychaete) worm, which would not have surprised me considering their amazing diversity of shapes and colours.

Ventral view showing body segments. Length 1mm. Credit: N Webster

Past that I’m rather unsure. It may have two pairs of antennae, meaning its not an insect.

Dorsal view, segmented antennae visible. Length ~1mm Credit: N Webster

Why would I even think its an insect at all? I found it in the ocean! Well there’s a rather cool fly in the genus Oedoparena whose larvae eat barnacles. I have been feeding my hatchlings barnacles, so perhaps. It doesn’t look quite right though when compared to the only drawing I could find from  the Habits and Life history of Oedoparena glauca (Diptera, Dryomyzide), a Predator of Barnacles:

5th instar of Oedoparena glauca. Much larger and more uniform morphology than my specimen. From Burger et al. 1980

The invertebrate world is full of wierd and wonderful beasts, and there’s no cheat sheet. I wish I knew what it was!

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