Unknown but fascinating species discovered on deep-sea expedition

The animals living in these deep-sea areas have adapted to a life with very little nutrition.


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A 45-day study expedition to the eastern Pacific Ocean’s Clarion Clipperton Zone between Mexico and Hawaii ended in March. These are the least explored regions on Earth. Roughly one in ten of the animal species that live in this region home have had scientific descriptions.

The researched region is a portion of the deep-sea Abyssal Plains, which are between 3,500 and 5,500 meters below the surface. Although they make up more than half of the planet’s surface, very little is known about the amazing animal life they support.

During this expedition, the research team made a captivating discovery. They encountered a myriad of unknown species, each more fascinating than the last. Among them were transparent sea cucumbers, bowl-shaped sponges, and the enigmatic pink sea pigs.

The creatures that inhabit these deep-sea habitats have demonstrated remarkable resilience. They have adapted to survive on meager food resources, primarily feeding on organic waste that falls from the more bountiful area near the surface, a phenomenon known as marine snow. This has led to the dominance of filter feeders like sponges and sediment feeders like sea cucumbers in this unique animal community.

Thomas Dahlgren, a marine ecologist from the University of Gothenburg, said, “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.”

The study team collected samples for later analysis and captured pictures of deep-sea life using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Among the species photographed was the cup-shaped glass sponge, an animal thought to have the longest lifespan of any species on Earth, fifteen thousand years.

The pink sea pig—a sea cucumber from the genus Amperima—was discovered during this expedition. It moves very slowly with its tube feet across the desolate plains in search of nutrient-rich sediments.

Through this expedition, scientists wanted to map the area’s biodiversity, where deep-sea mining of rare metals used in solar panels, electric car batteries, and other green technologies is planned.


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