A new species of freshwater crustacean was discovered during an expedition to the Lut Desert, known as the hottest place on Earth. The newly identified species belongs to the genus Phallocryptus, of which only four species were previously known from various arid and semi-arid regions. The results of the opening are published by Zoology in the Middle East.
Dr. Hossein Rajai of the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History and Dr. Alexander V. Rudov of the University of Tehran made the discovery during an expedition to the Lut Desert to better understand its ecology, biodiversity, geomorphology, and paleontology.
Further scientific studies of the samples by co-author Dr. Martin Schwentner, crustacean specialist at the Natural History Museum of Vienna, showed that they belong to a new species of freshwater crustacean.
As they publish their results, the biologists named the new species Phallocryptus fahimii after Iranian environmental biologist Hadi Fahimi, who participated in the 2017 expedition and, unfortunately, died in a plane crash in 2018.
Dr. Rajai, an entomologist at the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History who actually found the species in a small seasonal lake in the southern desert, says the discovery is “sensational”.
During an expedition to such an extreme place, you are always on the alert, especially when you find water. Finding crustaceans in this hot and dry environment was truly sensational.
Dr. Rajai, entomologist from the State Museum of Natural History of Stuttgart
The team’s research explains how Phallocryptus fahimii differs in general morphology and genetics from all other known Phallocryptus species.
Dr. Schwentner, who has worked with similar crustaceans from the Australian deserts in the past, adds: “These crustaceans can survive for decades in dry sediment and will hatch in the coming rainy season when the aquatic habitat is full again. They are ideally suited to desert life. Their ability to survive even in the Loot Desert underlines their resilience”.
The Lut Desert, also known as Dashte Lut, is the second-largest desert in Iran.
Located between 33° and 28° parallels and 51,800 km2 more than Switzerland, this desert holds the current record for the highest surface temperature ever recorded. Based on satellite measurements in 2006, NASA reported a record surface temperature of 70.7°C, which was recently increased to even 80.3 ° C. Dark pebbles that are heating up is one of the reasons for the record temperatures. Average daily temperatures range from -2.6°C in winter to 50.4°C in summer, with total precipitation not exceeding 30 mm per year.
The almost vegetated Lut Desert is home to a variety of animals, but no permanent aquatic habitats (such as ponds). After the rain, volatile astatic water bodies are filled, including the Rud-e-Shur river from the northwest of Lut.
Yet aquatic life in Lut remains very limited, which makes this find especially rare.