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Tiny, But Vital, Builders of Muddy Bottom Habitats Are Vanishing

Tiny, But Vital, Builders of Muddy Bottom Habitats Are Vanishing
Stately kelp forests and rainbow-colored coral reefs are known for the amazing amount of life that calls these habitats home. But don’t count out the muddy seafloor, especially if it harbors a tiny crustacean called a haploops. These animals, related to the sandhoppers often found on beaches, build small mud tunnel homes that litter the ocean floor. While they might not win any beauty contests, these “communities” of thousands of haploops form critical habitat for scores of species across northern Europe's oceans . But they’re in danger of disappearing unless governments take steps to protect them. The four tube-building species of Haploops amphipods cement their mud homes with “amphipod silk.” Clusters of these animals form vital feeding grounds and nurseries for sea urchins, brittle stars, tube worms and commercially important flatfish such as plaice and halibut. The dense, muddy bottom communities that haploops construct are vanishing — and scientists aren’t...
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