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Tethysbaena ophelicola n. sp. (Thermosbaenacea), a new prime consumer in the Ophel biome of the Ayyalon Cave, Israel

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A new species of the thermosbaenacean genus Tethysbaena Wagner, 1994 is described as T. ophelicola n. sp. The species is an abundant inhabitant of the brackish, sulfidic warm-water pool of the remarkable karstic cave Ayyalon in Israel, with a chemosynthesis-based biome, named Ophel, where the new taxon feeds as a prime consumer in the food web on Beggiatoa bacterial mats. Common occurrence of females with the typical brood-pouches (often filled with manca stages) in all samples examined indicates, that the pool is not only a feeding ground, but indeed the natural environment of these animals. The new taxon, being part of the T. relicta-group, is compared with its allegedly closest relatives, T. relicta and T. somala. Some ecological data on the site and on the thermosbaenaceans in general are added.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, Pieter Groen Building, Andreas College, P.O. Box 3226, NL-2220 CE Katwijk, The Netherlands


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