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An endemic cyclopoid copepod from Lake Joyce challenges our understanding of McMurdo Dry Valley biodiversity

An endemic cyclopoid copepod from Lake Joyce challenges our understanding of McMurdo Dry Valley biodiversity
Ian Hawes


Ian Hawes
Gateway Antarctica, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, NZ.

Tomislav Karanovic
Department of Life Sciences, Hanyang University, Seoul 133-791, Korea.

John A. E. Gibson
Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 129, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia.

Dale T Andersen
Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe, SETI Institute, 189 Bernado Avenue, Suite 100, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA.

Mark I Stevens
South Australian Museum, GPO Box 234, Adelaide & School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, Australia


It was long believed that isolation and extreme environment resulted in the absence of macroinvertebrates from the perennially ice-covered lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV). In 1984 this paradigm was broken when a small number of larval copepods were found in one of these lakes, Lake Joyce. However, the absence of adults prevented identification and it was not until November 2010 that we located adults in Lake Joyce. The Lake Joyce copepods have proved to be a new species of Diacyclops[1], related (but not very closely) to two species of this genus collected in the Bunger and Vestfold Hills of the Australian Sector. Lake Joyce is thought to be ~1000 yrs old, so did the species originate there in that time, is it a recent colonist (from where?), or is the Lake Joyce population a relic of a historically broader distribution? There appears no possibility that this is an anthropogenic introduction, but its restricted distribution raises concern over possible human vectors inadvertently spreading it to other lakes where a vacant niche undoubtedly exists. The discovery of an endemic copepod in one lake in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, probably the most intensively sampled area of Antarctica, is a salutary example of our limited understanding of Antarctic biodiversity, the potential risk of human transfer of species between habitats, the importance of refugia to Antarctic biodiversity – and the value of taxonomy to Antarctic science.

[1] The descriptions of the new species are currently in review in Antarctic Science.

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This page was last modified on 23 September 2013.