BHUBANESWAR: A team of zoologists has discovered a new species of head-shield sea slug from the coast of Bay of Bengal near Digha, Talasari-Udaypur and its adjoining places.Named Melanochlamys bengalensis, the new species represents a distinct clade as compared to other species of the same genus. The species was collected from the intertidal zone of the sandy beaches between Digha and Kanika Island near Dhamara.
The researchers from Odisha, West Bengal and Maharashtra centres of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) took around a decade to identify and confirm the new animal.Scientist E at ZSI regional centre, Gopalpur Dr Anil Mohapatra said the species was confirmed by examination of morphological and anatomical characters apart from the analysis of DNA. “It is a small sea slug having a length up to 14 mm with shell inside body and no backbone (invertebrate). The animal is black in colour and normally crawls on the intertidal zone leaving the crawl mark behind them on the sandy beach,” he said.
The sea slugs are active marauders and rapid hunters, feeding almost exclusively upon mobile prey such as other shelled and non-shelled sea slugs, roundworms, marine worms and small fishes.There are 17 species of this genus found around the globe and all these species are generally distributed in temperate regions of the Indo-Pacific Oceanic realm. This is the second truly tropical species after Melanochlamys papillata from the Gulf of Thailand, said Mohapatra.
After the specimens were collected from the east coast, they were examined thoroughly by integrating morphological characters and conducting a molecular analysis to get it confirmed as a new species. ZSI director Dr Dhriti Banerjee said the name was derived from its vicinity of occurrence, Bay of Bengal and the common name has been proposed as the Bay of Bengal head-shield sea slug. “Their reproduction apparently occurs between November and January while the distribution is recorded around a 295 km stretch from Bakkhali of West Bengal to Konika Island of Odisha,” Banerjee said.
Other zoologists in the team included Dr Prasad Chandra Tudu, Dr Sheikh Sajan, Dr Soumen Roy, Dr Amit Mukhapadhyay and Dr Basudev Tripathy. Their research paper has been published in a leading international journal Molluscan Research.