Ghost Shrimp

A new species of ghost shrimp found associated with mud volcanoes in the Gulf of Cadiz in the Northeast Atlantic is the second recorded thalassinidean crustacean from deep-sea chemoautotrophic communities.

Undersea mud volcanoes are geological features that are often associated with the seepage of cold, methane-rich fluids. Recently, it has been found that the Gulf of Cadiz, a body of water along the continental margins of the Iberian Peninsula and northern Morocco in the Northeastern Atlantic Ocean, has a high concentration of such unique geologic features. One of the most active of these sites, a mud volcano called the Captain Arutyunov which was discovered by researchers on the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission-UNESCO Training Through Research Programme expedition aboard the RV Prof. Logachev, has yielded the discovery of an unusual decapod crustacean considered new to science.

Vulcanocalliax arutyunovi n.gen, n.sp. was collected from the Captain Arutyunov mud volcano at a depth of 1324 m by researchers using a Television-assisted grab. This unusual arthropod, only the second recorded thalassinidean crustacean, commonly known as ghost shrimp, to be found associated with deep-sea chemoautotrophic communities. It exhibits a host of characteristics that have led researchers to propose the designation of a new Subfamily (Vulcanocalliacinae). Unique characteristics include unpigmented eyes and rather large embryos. The occurrence of low numbers of large embryos suggests that these shrimp undergo an abbreviated larval stage.

Up until the discovery of this species, only eleven species of decapods have been collected in association with Gulf of Cadiz mud volcanoes. Of these eleven, most are represented by only a single collected specimen. While decapod specimens have been often observed by deep-towed video, they are rarely caught in benthic samples. These facts suggest that many species of crustaceans in this area may still remain undescribed. Thus, the unique geological environment in the Gulf of Cadiz may contain many potential new species awaiting discovery.

For more information regarding this species, the full journal article may be accessed online at:

Species Location: This species was found in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean (shaded area on the left map and starred on the close-up at right).
  • What: Discovery of a new species of ghost shrimp in the Gulf of Cadiz in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean
  • Who: COMARGE Scientists --> P.C. Dworschak and M.R. Cunha
  • When: July 2002
  • Where: The Captain Arutyunov mud volcano, located along the Moroccan margin in the Gulf of Cadiz, Northeastern Atlantic ocean at a depth of 1324 m.
  • How: Collected by TV-assisted grab
  • References: Dworschak, P.C. and M.R. Cunha, 2007. A new subfamily, Vulcanocalliacinae n.subfam., for Vulcanocalliax arutyunovi n.gen,. n.sp. from a mud volcano in the Gulf of Cadiz (Crustacea, Decapoda, Callianassidae). Zootaxa 1460: 35-46.