A team of researchers studying the continent of Antarctica was left astonished when it discovered a few bizarre creatures in one of the deepest areas of the Southern Ocean.
The icy continent is home to around 1,000 scientists who analyze the isolated zone in an attempt to try to learn more about the history of the Earth. Some of the projects also focus on marine life in the waters surrounding the region, analyzing an ecosystem that, in some cases, was unexplored for millions of years.
Bizarre Magnificent Creatures in Antarctica
Onboard of New Zealand’s research vessel RV Tangaroa, an international team of experts, used high-end technology to scan regions of the seabed close to the Ross Sea that were left uncharted. The images sent back to the team depicted three peculiar creatures, much larger than anything ever seen before, which left Dr. Dave Bowden and his team stunned.
He said: “As a benthic ecologist, I study everything that lives on the seabed, but also everything that is involved in the ecosystem that is at the seabed. The Southern Ocean is a deepwater ocean, so we are talking about depths from 3,000 meters (1.864 miles) down to 5,000 meters (3.106 miles). Essentially, if we are looking at the Southern Ocean, south of New Zealand – the Ross Sea sector – we don’t know very much.”
Dr. Bowden said that one of the creatures was discovered during a 2012 expedition. The scientist further explained that the main tools the team is using to sample the zones are the High Definition Deepwater cameras, which are dangled on a wire underneath the ship and captures an immediate picture of the structure of the community.
“The biodiversity of the Ross Sea continental shelf area is high, most certainly, but you can’t compare it with other parts of the world,” Dr. Bowden said. “The reason is the Antarctic continental shelf has been isolated from the rest of the planet for many, many years.”
The researcher showed a picture of a sea spider – a group that’s rather intriguing in the Antarctica ecosystem because they are much more varied than the rest of the world, and they grow very large.
“There is a tendency in some groups to lean towards gigantism; it’s basically all legs, there’s essentially no body, it’s unlike anything we know about,” Dr. Bowden explained.
The scientist further revealed another bizarre creature during his interview with New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA). He explained that the creature is an example of another grand beast – a polychaete worm, which can be found under a rock, but which is a lot larger than normal.
“There’s debate over whether the Antarctic is the reason why these things are larger, or if there are just lineages of this animal that have evolved in the Antarctic and don’t exist anywhere else,” the expert detailed. “But one of my most fascinating finds from the voyage was on a seamount north of the Ross Sea, where we found an extraordinary assembly of sea lilies – crinoids – which are closely related to sea urchins. The main difference is that it’s anchored in one position.”
Dr. Bowden added: “The only place we’ve actually seen these before is in the fossil records, we’ve never seen anything like this before alive on the seabed.”