NEW SPECIES PICTURES: 850 Underground Creatures Found

NEW SPECIES PICTURES: 850 Underground Creatures Found
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The crustacean Phreatomerus latipes, previously thought to be a single species, is actually split into eight different species that evolved in geographically isolated springs in South Australia.

Up to 0.8 inch (2 centimeters) long, the creature--found nowhere else on Earth--relies totally on groundwater expelled from underground springs for its survival.

Many of the 850 species discovered in Australia during a recent four-year survey evolved in isolation in groundwater and tiny caves. The animals likely took refuge underground after central and southern Australia dried out about 15 million years ago, the team said.

The new discoveries provide a "fascinating window" into past climate change and how animals evolved from surface species into subterranean animals, team member Steve Cooper, of the South Australian Museum, said in October 2009.
—Photograph courtesy Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, University of Adelaide
 
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