New deep-sea tubeworm named after UWI Scientist Professor Judith Gobin
The UWI St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad and Tobago. Wednesday 22 March, 2023- For the first time, a deep-sea species has been named after a marine scientist from Trinidad and Tobago. The newly named species of tubeworm, Lamellibrachia judigobini, is so called in honour of Caribbean marine ecologist, Professor Judith Gobin, Professor of Marine Biology at the St Augustine Campus of The University of the West Indies (The UWI).
The international team of scientists, led by Dr Magdalena Georgieva of the Natural History Museum in London, UK, and which included local marine biologist, Dr Diva Amon, chose to celebrate The UWI St. Augustine Professor; Professor Judith Gobin, for her many important contributions to marine science. In addition, she is the first woman to hold this prestigious position in the Faculty of Science and Technology.
“We loved the idea of naming this very special deep-sea tubeworm after Judi, to honour her many contributions to revealing and protecting the marine life of the Caribbean and beyond. She is a key member of the deep-sea research community and I hope this discovery inspires plenty more in the deep oceans of the region,” said Magdalena Georgeiva.
The Lamellibrachia judigobini tubeworm is known to inhabit deep-sea cold seeps and hydrothermal vents stretching from Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados to the Gulf of Mexico at depths from 964 to 3304 metres. It is possibly also present at the Kick‘em Jenny submarine volcano off the island of Grenada.
“Trinidad and Tobago is in a crucial location to explore one of the biologically-richest regions, the Caribbean basin. We expect there to be many more species still unknown to humanity”, said Nadezhda N. Rimskaya-Korsakova, a scientist from Lomonosov Moscow State University who co-led the study. The new species, which can grow to over 1 metre long, was collected by Remotely Operated Vehicle during several deep-sea exploratory missions stretching from 2012 to 2014.
These are areas where fluids rich in hydrogen sulfide and methane leak from the seafloor. This fluid provides the energy to sustain large communities of life in the harsh conditions that exist in the deep sea (no light, approximately 4°C temperature, and more than 100 atmospheres of pressure). At cold seeps, bacteria create food via chemosynthesis in the absence of light, using the chemicals in the fluid, in a similar way to plants, which use sunlight for photosynthesis. These tubeworms do not have a gut or mouth and instead host these bacteria within them providing food directly. They are also keystone species, forming forests that then provide habitat for other species living at the seeps.
“There is so much we don’t know about the waters around Trinidad and Tobago. Perhaps one day these tubeworms will be as iconic as our hummingbirds or the leatherback turtle.” Added Dr Amon, a director and founder of SpeSeas. “Not only are we fortunate to have an amazing diversity of life on land and in shallow waters here in Trinidad and Tobago but also down in the deep sea.” She notes that she continues to collaborate with Professor Gobin on several other deep-sea projects. Reached for comment, Professor Gobin remarked that “this must surely be a crowning point of my extensive marine career and I am truly honoured. I sincerely thank the authors.” It is her hope that deep-sea science will continue to grow in Trinidad and Tobago.
Notes to Editor
The full reference for the scientific paper reporting this research is: Georgieva Magdalena N., Rimskaya-Korsakova Nadezhda N., Krolenko Varvara I., Van Dover Cindy Lee, Amon Diva J., Copley Jonathan T., Plouviez Sophie, Ball Bernard, Wiklund Helena, Glover Adrian G. (2023) A tale of two tubeworms: taxonomy of vestimentiferans (Annelida: Siboglinidae) from the Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre. Invertebrate Systematics 37, 167-191. https://doi.org/10.1071/IS22047
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