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Back in 2009, a team of scientists discovered an unusual shrimp from the reefs that surround the Indonesian islands of Ternate and Tidore. The eighth-inch long critter had hair on all of its eighth limbs. So, the researchers published a study in the journal ZooKeys in which they describe this never-before-seen shrimp in great detail for the first time ever. What might get some people excited is its unique name, inspired by the main character of J. R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings saga, Bilbo Baggins.
The hairy shrimp is scientifically called Odontonia bagginsi, after the famous hobbit who also had hairy feet. Werner de Gier is actually the one who came up with this special name for the critter, after studying it while he was a biology student in the Netherlands. What’s even more interesting is that de Gier also identified and named another special shrimp that was discovered during that same expedition. That one is called Odontonia plurellicola and sadly, it’s not inspired by any fantasy character.
The hairy-footed shrimp that’s called after Bilbo Baggins
Coming back to the hairy-footed shrimp, it’s worth noting that the hairs on its eight limbs are not, in fact, hairs. They are setae, which is the scientific name for any bristle or hair-like structure that grows on a living animal. When it comes to crustaceans, the setae act like whiskers, helping them detect and being aware of the environment around.
It seems that the Odontonia species of shrimp lives in the Indo-West Pacific and are, in fact, symbiotic crustaceans. So, like Bilbo himself, this shrimp also lives in some kind of hole in the ground. They live inside some hollow marine invertebrates called sea squirts. In the past, experts have named many other species after the creatures in the Lord of the Rings universe. For example, a golden lizard Liolaemus smaug after the frightening dragon Smaug, or the arachnid Landumoema smeagol, named after the hobbit-hater Smeagol or Gollum.
Image source: wikimedia