Shrimp has new spin on fake eyes

2014-11-24 00:00

CAPE TOWN — A new shrimp species, which seems to stare at the stars with wild, candy-striped eyes, has been found off the Cape.

The tiny shrimp measures between 10 mm and 15 mm and has been named Mysidopsis zsilaveczi, after diver Guido Zsilavecz, who found the shrimp and realised it was new to science. He took the shrimp to the University of Cape Town, where Professor Charles Griffiths co-opted Professor Karl Wittmann from the University of Vienna in Austria to describe the species.

Griffiths told sister paper Die Burger that M. zsilaveczi has fake eyes that resemble those of vertebrates, with a pupil and an iris, but near them it has a normal insect’s compound eye.

Griffiths said the shrimp’s fake eyes had the same function as the large eye-dots on a butterfly’s wings, namely to make predators think they are dealing with a bigger prey and hopefully frighten them away, but the shrimp had an interesting spin in the old trick in that it developed the fake eyes next to its real eyes. ­Griffiths said about 30 new marine species are found in South Africa’s waters annually.

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