Finding Limnognathia maerski
Every second year the biological institutes on the University of Copenhagen offer the biology students the chance of participating on a field course in arctic biology on the Danish Arctic Station on Disko Island, Greenland. In 1994 one of the participating teams worked with marine meiofauna and meiofauna in the homothermic springs, which are extremely abundant on Disko Island. The project was supervised by professor Reinhardt M. Kristensen and Peter Funch and the sampling was done on different locations on the Eastern part of the Island. The group had chosen to stay in a base camp near the cold spring at Isunngua, mainly because the springs could provide good drinking water and water for freshwater chocking of the marine sediment samples. As a standard procedure samples were also taken from the sediment and mosses in the spring water so the animals in it could be identified. This is always done because there is a risk that the freshwater animals may contaminate the marine samples when the water is used for freshwater chocking.
The samples turned out to contain several rotifers, or wheel animals, which are a group of microscopic animals that are very abundant in freshwater. Most of the animals were common species but one them attracted special attention. At first sight it resembled a rotifer, but its swimming motions were different and when it crawled on the moss leafs it became clear that the ventral side (the stomach side) of the animal was covered with small motile hairs, cilia, and this feature is not present in any rotifers. Consequently, the animal was prepared for light microscopy and investigations with higher magnification showed that the animal had several features that never had been observed before, and it became clear that this animal was new to science.
Several specimens of the animal were picked up and transported to the laboratories on the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen. Here the animals were investigated in details using transmission and scanning electron microscopy, and based on these investigations Kristensen and Funch described the new animal, named it Limnognathia maerski and placed it in its own newly established group called Micrognathozoa.
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Last update: 30 maj 2007
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