TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A professor at the National University of Tainan (NUTN) has discovered a species of lobster never before cataloged in Taiwan that has a brilliant red-and-white exterior.
After three years of research, Huang Ming-chih (黃銘志), an associate professor in NUTN's Department of Biological Sciences and Technology, has discovered a new species of lobster endemic to Taiwan. The crustacean was originally believed to be a foreign species, but fishermen based in Keelung have caught specimens off Taiwan's Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands), reported UDN.
Huang said he had heard fishermen speak of "beautiful red-and-white lobsters" for years but had never seen them in person.
The Metanephrops neptunus is a type of scampi named after Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, and in Australia is known as the Neptune lobster. It is distinguished by its red carapace and legs, white abdomen, and white patches on its claws.
This deep-sea lobster had previously only been recorded in the South China Sea, where it was discovered in 1965, and off the western coast of Australia at a depth of 300 to 600 meters.
Huang in the field. (NUTN photo)
Working with fishermen based in Keelung's Zhengbin Fishing Harbor, Huang was able to capture 10 mature individuals, including three females carrying eggs. He described the finds as "rare and precious specimens, which will help us understand the ecology of this lobster."
Huang thanked Kawai Tadashi (川井唯史) from the Wakkanai Fisheries Institute for his help documenting and identifying the lobster species. The two have published their findings in the journal Crustacean Research. The new species has been officially registered with the Catalogue of Life in Taiwan Project (TaiBNET), and Huang has dubbed the creature the "Houhai Neptune lobster" (海神後海螯蝦).
He said that after the research is completed on the specimens, he will donate them to the National Taiwan Museum. Of the 45 species of lobsters worldwide, 14 to 16 are endemic to Taiwan and are mainly found off the coast of Taitung, Hualien, Yilan, Keelung, the Hengchun Penninsula, and Penghu.
According to fishermen in Keelung, the lobsters are extremely rare, with only about 40 caught a year. Their rarity and unusual color scheme make them some of the most expensive lobsters in the area.
One of 10 captured specimens. (NUTN photo)