New species of sea creature named after UNCW professor

New species of sea creature named after UNCW professor
New species of marine life named after UNCW professor, lab.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Two new species of sea squirts have been named in honor of a local marine biology professor and a lab at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

According to the university, sea squirts are marine animals that live on things like pier pilings, ship hulls, rocks and large shells. They’re called sea squirts for the way they move;by contracting their bodies and ejecting streams of water.

UNCW associate professor Susanna Lopez-Legentil has been working with sea squirts since 1999 and was one of the first researchers to use DNA sequencing to look at the genetic differences in various populations.

P. lopezlegentilae (left) was named after professor Susanna López-Legentil for her work in ascidian genetics. P. imesa (right) was named in honor of the iMESA. (Photos from UNCW)
P. lopezlegentilae (left) was named after professor Susanna López-Legentil for her work in ascidian genetics. P. imesa (right) was named in honor of the iMESA. (Photos from UNCW) ((Photos from UNCW))

New species P. lopezlegentilae paid homage to Lopez-Legentil, and new species P. imesa honored the Integrated Molecular Ecology of Sponges and Ascidians lab at UNCW, also called the iMESA lab.

“There are no words to explain how I felt when I saw the publication and the beautiful two species named after the iMESA Lab and me,” López-Legentil said in a news release. “It is a rare honor for a scientist to have a species named after him or her. It is even rarer to have a species named after a particular lab within a university. I felt deeply honored and thankful that my colleagues would think so highly of me and my lab’s work.”

The professor’s latest work focuses on identifying native and nonnative species in harbors and marinas across the US. Lopez-Legentil and her team traveled to Puerto Rico in March to collect sea squirts as part of an NOAA grant program to help protect Puerto Rican marine ecosystems from invasive species.

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