A newly discovered amoeba species was named after one of the most influential characters in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" due to its uncanny resemblance to the character's hat.
The new species, describe in a paper published in the journal Acta-Protozoologica, has an outer carapace or shell that looks like the wizard hat worn by Gandalf. Due to its resemblance to the hat, the researchers decided to name the new species as Arcella gandalfi, as a tribute to the wizard.
Amoeba is a tiny, one-celled organism that lives in fresh water, salt waters, wetlands and animals. Among the different groups of amoeba, testate amoeba or the camoeba developed the ability to produce different shapes of outer carapace or shell. Arcella is one of the largest genera of testate amoeba. The characteristic funnel shape of A. gandalfi led the researchers to conclude that it belongs to the genus Arcella.
As a member of the genus Arcella, A. gandalfi is a free-living lobose amoeba that is capable of producing an outer shell.
The diameter and height of the conical shell of A. gandalfi has an average of 81 and 71 micrometers, respectively. The color of the new amoeba species ranges from light yellow to brown. The researchers noted that the size of the new species is considered to be large for a single-celled organism.
"New amoeba species are very rarely discovered because they're so tiny and not widely studied," said Daniel J. G. Lahr, a professor in IB-USP's Zoology Department and the principal investigator for the project, via Phys Org.
Lahr further said that what's surprising is that even though it's a single-celled organism, it has the ability of building a "funnel-shaped carapace."
The researchers also noted that A. gandalfi is more than half the size of most amoebas in the genus Arcella.
Comprising some 200 species, Arcella is considered to be one of the most diverse genera among the testate amoeba. Some of the species belonging to Arcella are hemispherical or disk-shaped, while other may resemble Asian rice hat or a crown.