10 new species discovered in Atlantic Ocean

Deepsea Jellyfish: Trachymedus
Feeds on plankton and small crustacea near the sea floor
Image credit: David Shale

Scientists have just returned from a voyage in the Atlantic Ocean with samples of rare animals and more than 10 possible new species.

The University of Aberdeen is leading the UK contribution to the project, which involves scientists from 16 nations.

During more than 300 hours of diving - using Isis the UK’s deepest diving remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to depths of between 700m right down to 3,600m - researchers surveyed flat plains, cliff faces and slopes of the giant mountain range that divides the Atlantic Ocean into two halves, east and west

Scale Worm: Polynoid polychaeteImage credit: David Shale

“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 northwest plains were the home of deep-sea enteropneust acorn worms. Only a few specimens, from the Pacific Ocean, were previously known to science,” said Professor Monty Priede, Director of the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab.

Comb Jelly: Bathypelagic ctenophore
Found close to the sea floor on the Mid-Atlantic ridge
Image credit: David Shale

The team also found a little-known group of animals close to the missing link in evolution between backboned and invertebrate animals.

They have no eyes, no obvious sense organs or brain but there is a head end, tail end and indication of a backbone.

“By the end of the expedition three different species were discovered each with a different colour, pink, purple and white with distinctly different shapes,” he added.

Sea Cucumber: Holothurian; Peniagone diaphana
Image credit: David Shale

The team also discovered sea cucumbers, or holothurians on steep slopes, small ledges and rock faces of the underwater mountain range.

Dr Andrey Gebruk, Shirshov Institute, Moscow, said, “We were surprised how species, elsewhere considered rare, were found in abundance on the Mid Atlantic Ridge and we were finding new species up to the last minute of the last dive in the voyage.”

Basket Star: Gorgonocephalus
A specialised starfish that captures plankton (krill) on its intricate arms
Image credit: David Shale

Dr. Dan Jones, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, 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.”

Acorn Worm: Enteropneust
Worm from the North Atlantic Ocean
Image credit: David Shale

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