Communities of species previously unknown to science have been discovered on the seafloor near Antarctica, clustered in the hot, dark environment surrounding hydrothermal vents.
The discoveries, made by teams led by the University of Oxford, University of Southampton, the National Oceanography Centre, and British Antarctic Survey, include new species of yeti crab, starfish, barnacles, and sea anemones, and even an octopus probably new to science.
For the first time researchers, using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), have been able to explore the East Scotia Ridge deep beneath the Southern Ocean where hydrothermal vents, including ‘black smokers’ reaching temperatures of up to 382 degrees Celsius, create a unique environment lacking sunlight but rich in certain chemicals.
‘Hydrothermal vents are home to animals found nowhere else on the planet that get their energy not from the Sun but from breaking down chemicals, such as hydrogen sulphide,’ said Professor Alex Rogers of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, who led the research. ‘The first survey of these particular vents, in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, has revealed a hot, dark, ‘lost world’ in which whole communities of previously unknown marine organisms thrive.’
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