Updated 9:12 AM EST, Tue, Jan 05, 2021

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Strange “Stargazer Mysid” Shrimp Discovered in South Africa

Stargazer Mysid

(Photo : The “Stargazer Mysid” shrimp recently discovered off South Africa

A tiny shrimp christened the "stargazer mysid" because its eyes appear to always look upwards has been discovered in the area of False Bay, Cape Town by an underwater photographer.

The small shrimp, which is 10 mm to 15 mm long, has large and candy-striped eyes to warn it of predators. Just like insects' eyes, the shrimp's eyes each look in a different direction.

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"The vivid ringed patterns are thought to be there to make the eyes appear to belong to a much bigger creature, and hence to scare off predators," said senior marine biologist and Emeritus Professor Charles Griffiths from the University of Cape Town.

The shrimp has been officially named "Mysidopsis zsilaveczi" after Guido Zsilavecz, the underwater photographer who discovered it.

Zsilavecz brought the shrimp to Griffiths, who couldn't identify it. Griffiths then sent samples to Professor Karl Wittmann from the University of Vienna to confirm it was a new species.

"Stargazer mysid" is the ninth Mysidopsis species found in Southern Africa.

The shrimp only looks like its gazing upward because shrimps don't have pupils and irises, Griffiths said. This is an optical illusion.

The creatures have compound eyes like those of insects. The vivid, ringed patterns are thought to make the eyes appear much bigger for protection against predators, Griffiths said. These eyes appeared as part of the shrimp's evolution and some species of moth also exhibit this trait.

Zsilavecz also discovered a new species of nudibranch, a soft-bodied sea slug, at Long Beach in Cape Town. The creature has large, green lobes and "wings" that resemble the Sydney Opera House.

The study about the creature was recently published in a joint paper by Charles Griffiths and Professor Karl Wittmann in the Crustaceana journal.

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