Sunday, April 14, 2024

Researchers find 100 possible new species in the deep sea, including an unknown creature

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Scientists exploring the oceans off the coast of New Zealand have made an exciting discovery. During a three-week expedition in February aboard the research vessel Tangaroa, they focused on the little-explored Bounty Trough, collecting nearly 1,800 samples from depths of up to 3 miles (4,800 meters). Their findings include around 100 potential new species, such as fish, squid, mollusk, and coral.

Dr. Daniel Moore, the expedition science manager of Ocean Census, a group dedicated to identifying unknown species, expressed the thrill of exploring an area with limited data. The team encountered a mysterious starlike creature, initially thought to be a sea star or sea anemone. Its place in the tree of life remains unknown.

One noteworthy discovery is two eelpouts, believed to be new species, caught in a fish trap 1.7 miles (2,700 meters) below the ocean’s surface in the Bounty Trough. Dr. Michela Mitchell, a taxonomist at the Queensland Museum Network, suggested it might be a type of deep-sea coral called octocoral or possibly an entirely new group, contributing significantly to our understanding of the planet’s biodiversity.

Dr. Moore expressed surprise at finding a new species of fish known as an eelpout, emphasizing the rarity of discovering new vertebrates in the sea. Despite the assumption that we know most marine vertebrates, the reality is that much is still unknown.

To collect samples, the team used different sleds depending on the terrain, including a beam trawl, a heavy-duty seamount sled, and a device sampling the water just above the seafloor. These findings highlight the vast gaps in our knowledge of the ocean depths, with only 240,000 out of the estimated 2.2 million species in Earth’s oceans described by scientists, according to Ocean Census.

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