Researchers have discovered a new species of amoeba and named it after the wizard Gandalf from The Lord of Rings, a series of novels by J.R.R Tolkien, as its funnel shaped shells have striking resemblance to a wizard's hat.
It has been given the scientific name of Arcella gandalfi, it was found in Brazil.
According to the researchers, thecamoebians are among the 30-45 lineages of amoebae, which are known to exist worldwide. During their evolution, they have developed the ability to produce differently shaped outer carapace or shell to protect themselves.
"New amoeba species are very rarely discovered because they're so tiny and not widely studied," said Daniel J G Lahr, professor at University of Sao Paulo, according to PTI.
They based their analysis on biometric and morphological characterisation. Scientists at the University of Sao Paulo and University of Maringa in Brazil concluded that the characteristic funnel shape of A gandalfi was unique among species belonging to the genus Arcella, one of the largest genera of testate amoebae.
Physical features of A gandalfi:
- Its colour ranges from light yellow to brown
- The diameter and height of its conical shell average between 81 and 71 micrometres, respectively
- Although A gandalfi is microscopic, it is considered large for a single-celled organism.
"The identification of a new species of microorganism in the Southern Hemisphere, as in the case of this amoeba, is very strong evidence that its geographic distribution is restricted to the region because Northern Hemisphere environments have been studied in far more depth," he said.
Most amoebae in the genus Arcella are less than half the size of A gandalfi and vary considerably in morphology, typically being hemispherical or disk-shaped.
Some resemble an Asian rice hat, while the others are crown-like with denticulations - small ridges resembling bristles or spines around the edges.
The discovery was published in the journal Acta Protozoologica.