Funch & Kristensen, 1995
Symbion pandora is a jug-shaped microscopic aquatic animal that dwells on the mouth-parts of Norway lobsters. The animals are less than ½ mm wide, with sac-like bodies, and three distinctly different forms in different parts of their three-stage life cycle.
Classification and naming
They are so unlike any known animal that its discovery by Danish scientists in 1995 led to the creation of a new phylum. The phylum Cycliophora, from the Greek for 'carrying a small wheel', was named after the creature's circular mouth. Two other members of that phylum have since been discovered.
Symbion refers to the animal's symbiotic relationship with its lobster host while the specific epithet pandora refers to the part of the organism's life cycle that reminded Funch and Reinhardt of the mythical Pandora's box.
- Asexual feeding stage – At this stage, S. pandora is neither male nor female. It has a length of 347 μm and a width of 113 μm. On the posterior end of the sac-like body is a stalk with an adhesive disc, which attaches itself to the host. On the anterior end is a ciliated funnel (mouth) and an anus.
- Sexual stage
- Female – S. pandora is the same size as the male in this stage. It does, however, have a digestive system which collapses and reconstitutes itself as a larva.
- Male – S. pandora has a length of 84 μm and a width of 42 μm during this stage. It has no mouth or anus, which signifies the absence of a digestive system. It also has two reproductive organs.
Symbion pandora can reproduce both asexually by budding and sexually. In sexual reproduction the male attaches to a feeding stage and impregnates a budding female. The female then separates from the feeding stage and attaches herself to another host, where the larva in her develops. The female dies, and the larva escapes. The sexual reproductive cycle is triggered when the host crustacean molts its skin in order to grow.
In popular culture
Symbion pandora has been referenced by noted humor columnist Dave Barry in an article to dissuade readers from eating lobster.
- P. Funch & R. M. Christensen (1995), "Cycliophora is a new phylum with affinities to Entoprocta and Ectoprocta", Nature 378 (6558): 711–714, doi:10.1038/378711a0.
- "Zoologger: The most bizarre life story on Earth?", NewScientist.com, 28 April 2010
- Piper, Ross (2007), Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals, Greenwood Press
- "The lobster rebellion - Dave Barry - MiamiHerald.com". miamiherald.com. Retrieved 2014-01-25.