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Scientists describe a new genus and 6 new freshwater crab species in Kerala

When on a beach or by a large water body, many of us would have seen a handful of crab species. It is an absolute delight to see these decapod (ten-footed) crustaceans dart across open patches of sand side ways, then stop abruptly only to dash away again! While many might associate crabs with the marine environment, there are approximately 13,000 known species of freshwater crabs in the world. In India, the state of Kerala boasts of the highest number of freshwater crab species, providing a home to 28 of the 94 known freshwater crab species. It is only natural then that researchers from the Zoological survey of India, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram and Holy Cross College, Tamilnadu have described 6 new species of freshwater crabs from the region. Two of the newly described species have also been classified under a new genus - Karkata. The researchers carefully studied the anatomy of these animals to ascertain that they belonged to novel species. The individuals belonging to the genus Karkata were distinguished from the other genera by their carapace, which is the part of the exoskeleton that covers the crab's head and thorax region on the top, and by the gonopod, which is an organ used for reproduction. Within the genus the two new species Karkata ghanarakta and Karkata kusumbha were distinguished using their first male gonopod characteristics as well as their colour. Similarly the various characteristics of the carapace, gonopod and legs were used to describe 4 more novel species - Pilarta punctatissima, Pilarta aroma, Cylindrotelphusa breviphallus and Cylindrotelphusa longiphallus, belonging to an already established genera. The discovery not only adds to a growing list of new freshwater crab species, but also highlights that there is still much to be discovered in the natural world for those who want to explore.