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Crucial crustacea  Researchers bring cave-dwelling amphipods to light 

Entrance to the Hölloch cave system

This is the entrance to one of Europe's longest caves, at the Hölloch in central Switzerland, where the new species of invertebrate organisms were found.

(© Keystone/Urs Flüeler)

Several new species of freshwater crustacea have been identified by scientists in Switzerland as part of a project by the University of Zurich and the Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. 

The five species of amphipods – invertebrate organisms which contribute to the biodiversity and a functioning eco-system – were found in several underground caves mainly in central Switzerland, the instituteexternal link said in a statement. 

Until a few years ago there were about 20 known species of the tiny crustacea. Experts, including drinking water suppliers and cave researchers, found the new species which live hidden in the groundwater of caves. 

While there are now more than 40 recorded species of amphipods, scientists say little is still known about these animals, which range from a few millimetres to a few centimetres in size.

They feed on organic waste, notably leaves, and are an important diet for fish and other organisms. Amphipods live in lakes, streams and groundwater. 

The amphipod projectexternal link by a team of scientists led by Florian Altermatt from the University of Zurich published a book on the discovery.

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