HomeScience & TechNew Species Discovered in the Depths of the Pacific Ocean

New Species Discovered in the Depths of the Pacific Ocean

In a groundbreaking expedition, marine scientists have uncovered a collection of new species residing in the deep, dark depths of the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the Pacific Ocean. This remote area, located between Mexico and Hawaii, is one of the least explored regions on Earth, harboring creatures that have never been seen by humanity before.

The discoveries were made by an international team of researchers part of the UK National Oceanography Centre’s Seabed Mining And Resilience To EXperimental impact (SMARTEX) mission. Using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), the team explored depths ranging from 3,500 to 5,500 meters (11,480 to 18,045 feet), capturing images and samples of the previously unknown marine life.

Marine ecologist Thomas Dahlgren from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden described the excitement of the mission: “This is one of very few cases where researchers can be involved in discovering new species and ecosystems in the same way as they did in the 18th century. It’s very exciting.”

Among the standout discoveries is a transparent sea cucumber, nicknamed the “unicumber,” from the Elpidiidae family. The animal’s digestive tract is clearly visible in the images, full from its feeding forays on the seafloor. It also has a long, unusual tail likely used for swimming. “These sea cucumbers were some of the largest animals found on this expedition,” Dahlgren explained. “They act as ocean floor vacuum cleaners, specializing in finding sediment that has passed through the least number of stomachs.”

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Other remarkable creatures include delicate glass sponges, which are filter feeders with lifespans up to 15,000 years, and a vivid pink sea cucumber, nicknamed the “Barbie sea pig.” This sea pig, belonging to the Amperina genus, is notable for its bright pink hue and stubby legs.

A long-bodied tanaid crustacean, almost worm-like in appearance, was also among the discoveries, along with anemones that spread wide to capture marine snow, the organic matter that drifts down from higher ocean strata.

The findings highlight the diversity of life in the abyssopelagic zone and the specialized adaptations that allow these creatures to survive in such an extreme environment. However, the area explored is also a site for deep-sea mining, which poses significant threats to these fragile habitats.

“The lack of food causes individuals to live far apart, but the species richness in the area is surprisingly high. We see many exciting specialized adaptations among the animals in these areas,” Dahlgren noted. “We need to know more about this environment to be able to protect the species living here. Today, 30 percent of these marine areas in consideration are protected, and we need to know whether this is enough to ensure that these species aren’t at risk of extinction.”

The team of scientists will continue to study these newly discovered species to better understand their biology and ecology. This research is crucial for informing conservation efforts and protecting these unique ecosystems from the impacts of human activities such as deep-sea mining.

The discovery of these new species serves as a powerful reminder of the vast, unexplored regions of our planet and the potential for uncovering new and remarkable forms of life in the deep ocean.

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