New monsters from the deep discovered 2 miles under the Atlantic

July 7, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

These glowing alien-looking creatures are some of ten new species discovered by scientists 12,000ft below the surface of the Atlantic ocean.

Marine experts embarked upon a six-week voyage in the Atlantic Ocean to observe these spooky looking deep sea the unearthly enteropneusta or acorn worms.

They are members of a group of animals close to the missing evolutionary link between invertebrates and backboned creatures.

The 15cm long creatures were not previously known to exist outside of the Pacific Ocean but scientists found several new species flourishing in the Atlantic.

Researchers from the University of Aberdeen used high definition cameras in Isis, a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), to explore the mountainous range at the base of the Atlantic.

New species were found during 300 hours of diving off the RSS James Cook in one area beneath the cold waters north of the Gulf Stream and another in the warmer waters to the south.

Experts discovered never before seen marine life at extreme depths which they believe could help explain the development from invertebrate to back-boned forms of life.

Species previously considered rare were also found in abundance and deep-sea cameras filmed the immense diversity of life at the bottom of the ocean.

Professor Monty Priede, Director of the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab, said scientists were surprised at the difference in habitat and marine life either side of the ridge.

He said: ”In the west the cliffs faced east and in the east the cliffs faced west. The terrain looked the same, mirror images of each other, but that is where the similarity ended.

”It seemed like we were in a scene from Alice Through the Looking Glass.

”In the north-east, sea urchins were dominant on the flat plains and the cliffs were colourful and rich with sponges, corals and other life.

”In the north-west, the cliffs were dull grey bare rock with much less life. The north-west plains were the home of deep-sea enteropneust acorn worms.

”Only a few specimens, from the Pacific Ocean, were previously known to science.

”These worms are members of a little-known group of animals close to the missing link in evolution between backboned and invertebrate animals.”

Scientists observed these creatures feeding and leaving characteristic spiral traces on the sea floor and was seen showing rudimentary swimming behaviour.

The worms have no eyes, no obvious sense organs or brain, but they exhibit a head and tail end and the primitive body plan of back-boned animals.

Three different species of the worm were identified with different colourings of pink, purple and white and distinct shapes.

Professor Priede added: ”Using new technology and precise navigation we can access these regions and discover things we never suspected existed.”

Sea-cucumbers, or holothurians, which normally crawl slowly over flat ocean plains, were seen scaling submerged rock faces and swimming at rapid speeds.

Researchers were also surprised to see that they were very able and fast moving swimmers and unique video sequences were recorded of swimming holothurians.

Dr Dan Jones, from the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, surveyed over 50,000 square metres of sea floor in high definition detail.

He said: ”We successfully completed one of the most detailed video surveys of the deep sea ever attempted.

”The Isis ROV with its cutting-edge technology gives us the potential to understand more and more of the mysterious deep sea environment.”

The voyage was part of the UK contribution to the international Census of Marine Life programme MARECO.

The project aims to enhance understanding of the occurrence, distribution and ecology of animals along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between Iceland and the Azores.



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