RAJA AMPAT, Indonesia, Aug. 26 (UPI) -- A team of researchers, from Florida and the Netherlands, recently located a tiny creature living inside another creature.
The bigger invertebrate they knew of, but the scientists had never seen the smaller crustacean before. The tiny creature was located in the bronchial chamber of a solitary tunicate, a tall tubular filter feeder.
The animal had evolved a commensal association -- causing neither harm nor providing benefit to its host -- with the tunicate, which was growing among the remote coral reefs of Raja Ampat in Indonesia.
After extracting the creature and studying it in the lab, scientists confirmed it as a new species. Lead researcher James Thomas decided to name the new species Leucothoe eltoni, after famed singer-songwriter Sir Elton John.
"I named the species in honour of Sir Elton John because I have listened to his music in my lab during my entire scientific career," Thomas explained in a recent press release. "So, when this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting, an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard came to mind."
While compiling his paper on the species -- newly published in the journal ZooKeys -- Thomas was asked to help identify an apparent invasive species in Hawaii.
Strangely enough, the invader turned out to be L. eltoni.
Thomas guesses the creature likely hitched a ride inside a sponge or tunicate that was attached to a floating dry dock being transported from the Philippines to Hawaii.
What harm the tiny creature might do in Hawaii is unclear, but biologists at the Bishop Museum, in Honolulu, have established a program that closely monitors biodiversity in the region and keeps an eye for invaders.