Nova Southeastern University researcher discovers new species of sea lily

December 16, 2014

FORT LAUDERDALE-DAVIE, Fla. - 'Tis the season to be jolly, or so the song goes. But for some, trying to find that one-of-a-kind gift for the person who has everything is a yearly struggle.

But don't fret - if you're one of the people stressing out trying to find a unique gift, Nova Southeastern University has got you covered!

That's because one of the researchers at NSU's Oceanographic Center, Charles Messing, Ph.D., is auctioning off the naming rights on eBay to a new species of new sea lily he discovered. Sea lilies are extremely rare - only about 110 are known to exist worldwide, which makes naming it the perfect gift for the person who has everything.

"Imagine finding a tiger roaming the Florida Everglades, that would be rare enough," Messing said. "Now imagine that tiger has six legs - that would be an extremely rare find. That's just how rare a new sea lily is."

You can find the online auction here -

But you've got to hurry - the auction ends December 22.

As is customary in the scientific world, the expert in the specific field has the honor of naming a new species when it's discovered. While finding a new sea lily in the world's oceans is rare, discovering new marine life isn't rare for Messing. In fact, he has several discoveries named for him - from a crab to a small shrimp to a worm to another sea lily. So, rather than taking the opportunity to name this new find, Messing knew there are people around the nation - and the world - who are looking to find just the right holiday gift, so he decided to auction off the naming rights on eBay.

"I figured 'why not' - it's a great way for someone to create a lasting legacy while making a significant financial contribution that will help continue the work at NSU's Oceanographic Center," Messing said. "The name can reference the donor, a family member or loved one. This opportunity gives someone a real, concrete way to support marine biology research - there's so much more we need to learn about our oceans and we couldn't do it without the support of our community, and it's a pretty cool gift."

Almost every year, researchers at NSU's Oceanographic Center discover new species of marine life, but this is something unique. And, despite its name and plantlike appearance, Messing said it's really an animal, related to sea stars and sea urchins.

The final name of this new sea lily species will be published in a scientific journal as part of the permanent record of biodiversity. Only four specimens have been collected; they will be deposited into permanent museum collections, such as the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution.

"This truly is a gift that will keep on giving," Messing said. "Whoever wins the auction, their name - or that of a loved one - will be talked about a scientific conferences and will be in scientific journals for years to come."

Try getting that sort of legacy from the latest computer tablet.

Usually, naming rights for creatures such as beetles, butterflies or orchids range from about $3,000 to $5,000 each. However, those species number in the tens of thousands, while the scientific community only knows of about 110 species of sea lilies throughout the world's oceans, all of which are restricted to deep waters. Given the rarity of this animal, NSU has set the opening bid on this charitable auction at $4,000, but Messing is confident the final amount will be much higher. By going the eBay route, it opens up this opportunity to even more people, many of whom may not realize this is something available to them.

The funds raised will be used to support marine biodiversity research expeditions around the world, as well as graduate student research at NSU. The successful donor will receive acknowledgement of the source of the name in the publication describing the species, copies of the publication, and a framed and matted composite piece including a photographic print of the animal as well as one of Messing's original pen-and-ink illustrations for the paper.

Messing is a professor at NSU's Oceanographic Center; his areas of research include the systematics, evolution and ecology of living Crinoidea, the group to which sea lilies belong, and the ecology and biogeography of tropical deep-water, rocky-bottom invertebrate communities (e.g., corals, octocorals, echinoderms, sponges). In his decades of exploring the ocean's biodiversity using scuba, submersibles and robotic vehicles, Messing has previously described nine new crinoid species, but this one is the most curious, and the first one for which he has offered naming rights.
About Nova Southeastern University

Situated on 314 beautiful acres in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is a dynamic research institution dedicated to providing high-quality educational programs at all levels. NSU is an independent, not-for-profit institution with approximately 26,000 students at campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach and Tampa, Florida as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico. NSU awards associate's, bachelor's, master's, specialist, doctoral and first-professional degrees in a wide range of fields. NSU is classified as a research university with "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and it is one of only 37 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie's Community Engagement Classification. For more information, please visit Celebrating 50 years of academic excellence!

About NSU's Oceanographic Center

The Oceanographic Center provides high-quality graduate education programs (i.e. master's, doctoral, certificate) in a broad range of marine science disciplines. Center researchers carry out innovative, basic and applied marine and research programs in coral reel biology, ecology, and geology; fish biology, ecology, and conservation; shark and billfish ecology; fisheries science; deep sea organismal biology and ecology; invertebrate and vertebrate genomics, genetics, molecular ecology, and evolution; microbiology; biodiversity; observation and modeling of large scale ocean circulation, coastal dynamics, and ocean atmosphere coupling; benthic habitat mapping; biodiversity; histology; and calcification. For more information, please visit

Nova Southeastern University

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