Critter of the Week, spiny sea slater Brucerolis brandtae

This week we thought we would go back to the beginning and revisit our very first Critter, which many of you may not have seen. Let’s take another look at the spiny sea slater Brucerolis brandtae.

Brucerolis brandtae

Serolid are a family of sea slaters, isopods, and you may be excused for thinking they look like those fossil trilobites. Serolides are can be considered as one of the trilobite imposters but they are not at all related to them.

This serolid species is very common between 490 and 1700m along the eastern margin of New Zealand (Chatham Rise, Bounty Plateau, and northern Campbell Plateau). It is one of the four endemic species in this genus known in New Zealand (all of the currently known serolids, in three genera, are considered endemic).

The face behind the name

And continuing on the theme of the face behind the name series, here we have a double whammy: the genus Brucerolis is named after Dr. Niel Bruce at the Queensland Museum in honour of his work on these animals in New Zealand (a play on names, from Serolis to Brucerolis). The species name ‘brandtae’ is in honour of Professor Angelika Brandt  at the University of Hamburg who has also long studied these critters, primarily in Antarctica.

Brucerolis brandtae collected at just over 900 m on the Hikurangi Margin, east of the North Island of New Zealand. The specimen is around 5 cm long from the front to the end of the tips. Credit: Peter (Chazz) Marriot NIWA/ Vulnerable Deep-Sea Communities voyage.
A view of the underside of Brucerolis brandtae giving a good view of all the segmented legs neatly tucked away under all those spines. Credit: Peter (Chazz) Marriot NIWA/ Vulnerable Deep-Sea Communities voyage.
A closeup of the amazing pink eyes and the head of Brucerolis brandtae. Credit: Peter (Chazz) Marriot NIWA/ Vulnerable Deep-Sea Communities voyage.
Is the orange roughy aware that it has a Brucerolis brandtae right under its nose? According to ongoing studies here at NIWA, the isopod has nothing to worry about, orange roughy nearly exclusively eat shrimp and small myctophid fish which all swim well above the bottom. Photo taken between 800-900m over the Graveyard seamount of the Chatham Rise. Credit: DTIS NIWA/ Seamount voyage.
An isopod which could easily be Brucerolis brandtae playing hide and seek? Spot the distinct outline of the long spines between the rocks. It’s sharing this small patch with an echiuran (see Cotw 49). Photo taken between 800-1100m over the Graveyard seamount of the Chatham Rise. Credit: DTIS NIWA/ Seamount voyage