16:39 13 February 2017
A newly discovered aquatic amoeba has been named after the wizard Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings due to its shells’ striking resemblance to the wizard’s gray hat.
The aquatic amoeba, which was found in Brazil, makes its own carapace, or shell that looks just like Gandalf’s hat. Researchers theorise that its shell was designed to protect itself against predators. The tiny amoeba’s diameter is just 0.0032 inches and its colour ranges from light yellow to brown.
In a statement, Daniel J. G. Lahr, a professor at the University of São Paulo's Institute of Biosciences and the lead researcher of the project, said: 'New amoeba species are very rarely discovered because they’re so tiny and not widely studied.
'In addition, there are very few taxonomists who specialize in this group in Brazil.'
He added: 'We think they're able to maintain a humid microenvironment inside the shell when it's dry outside by storing even a tiny amount of water,'
The researchers said that the carapace could also protect against harmful UV radiation.
'Their habitats are aquatic, and they’re often exposed to sunlight, so protection against UV rays must be a very important factor,' said Professor Lahr.
'A multicellular organism has a number of protective barriers against UV radiation, including a layer of keratin, as well as skin pigments.
'In the case of single-cell organisms like amoebae, their DNA is basically exposed.'
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