Guido Zsilavecz is a ‘citizen scientist,’ who has a shrimp that he found in the waters off the Cape Peninsula, named after him.
Words by Fiona McIntosh
Ok, the title of this piece is not entirely accurate. But Mysidopsis zsilaveczi, the stargazer shrimp, is indeed named after its discoverer, Guido Zsilavecz. And “A shrimp called Zsilavecz” wouldn’t have grabbed your attention in the same way, would it?
That said the photo of the bright red stargazer, a tiny mysid, so called because its striped, Gobstopper-like eyes appear to gaze upwards at the heavens, is pretty attention-grabbing. Absolutely gorgeous in fact. The little beauty, which ranges from 10 to 15mm in length, can be found on both sides of the Cape Peninsula, generally on vertical grown-over walls. “They are quite solitary, in that I’ve never seen them in groups as one does other mysids,” Guido explains. “Being so small they are obviously easily overlooked, and are not always there – for the last few months I’ve been struggling to find one myself…”
He’s what they call a ‘citizen scientist’, Guido continues, in that, he has a normal day job [as a partner in a small software development company, Mobinomics, which creates telecommunications-oriented software]. But he’s been involved in ‘proper’ marine science as well, with highlights being the discovery and description of two new species of klipfish, and of course the discovery of the stargazer shrimp.
So how does a computer scientist end up having a crustacean named after him?
Guido started diving in 1989 while a student at UCT. He quickly gained an interest in the marine environment, and soon started taking photographs underwater. Over the years his interest grew, and feeling it would be good to share his knowledge, in 2005, he and fellow enthusiast Peter Southwood started the Southern Underwater Research Group, SURG.
Under this banner, Guido wrote and published two books, “Coastal Fishes of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay”, and “Nudibranchs of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay”, while a fellow SURG-member, Georgina Jones, published “A field guide to the Marine Animals of the Cape Peninsula”. SURG is small – with only three members – but they are busy, as their aim is to encourage conservation through education: the more people know about our environment, the less likely they are to destroy it.