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Indian Scientists Discover New ‘Mermaid’ Plant Species in Andaman’s Archipelago

the newly discovered species features leaf-like round green structure marked with lines meeting at its centre. ( Credits: Shutterstock/YouTube/ The Daily Nongor)

the newly discovered species features leaf-like round green structure marked with lines meeting at its centre. ( Credits: Shutterstock/YouTube/ The Daily Nongor)

According to the scientists, the discovery, being the first new algae species in the Andaman islands in nearly four decades, is significant as the archipelago is still contributing to biodiversity.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands are known for being a hotspot of biodiversity and for this reason they have been the focus of many scientific studies. Now, Scientists from the Central University of Punjab in India have discovered a new plant species with a beautiful structure in the archipelago. Scientists have named the plant species, which is a green algae, as Acetabularia jalakanyakae. Jalakanyakae is a Sanskrit word that literally means a mermaid. Interestingly, the parent group of the species Acetabularia, owing to its fascinating structure, is also known as ‘mermaid’s wineglass.’ Acetabularia is the largest unicellular creature across the plant and animal kingdom. The organisms belonging to the group, despite being sized from 0.5 to 10 cm, contain just one gigantic cell.

According to the scientists, the newly discovered species features leaf-like round green structure marked with lines meeting at its centre.

“It has caps with intricate designs as if it were umbrellas of a mermaid," said Felix Bast, the lead scientist of the research, in a statement to BBC. Bast works as an Associate Professor of botany at CUP.

The researchers had found the algae species during their visit to the Andaman islands in 2019, and it took them about two years to make sure that the found plant did not belong to any species known earlier. For 18 months, they performed DNA sequencing on the newfound plant and compared it to the existing flora.

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According to the scientists, the discovery, being the first new algae species in the Andaman islands in nearly four decades, is significant as the archipelago is still contributing to biodiversity. The study has been accepted by the Indian Journal of Geo-Marine Sciences.

Host of healthy coral reefs, which are underwater ecosystems built by marine invertebrates that form ridge-shaped structures, the archipelago has its 86% land covered in lush green rainy forests. The coral reefs, which enrich and protect the environment in a number of ways, also support growth of diverse organisms that include many species of green algae.

However, with the rise in seawater temperature, and the resulting decrease in oxygen dissolved in water, threatens the existence of all species that depend on oxygen.

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first published:August 18, 2021, 11:56 IST