The so-called Casper octopod species may be in danger because of humans as deep-mining practices could potentially affect its habitat and reproduction.
Earth and its oceans are a biological treasure. From its waters to the land, our planet still has undiscovered species. Just recently, environmental reports announced the discovery of new species.
However, it would seem that their simple discovery is not enough. Both known and newly-found species should be protected.
Back in spring, the discovery of a new octopod made headlines. The species was discovered near Hawaii, off the Necker Island. The specimen led to the creation of a new octopod class.
It was sighted crawling on the ocean floor. Its great depth, coming up to about 2.5 miles, also broke records. The Casper octopod received the popular nickname thanks to its aspect. It sports quite a colorless appearance. White could be its nearest color. It also appears to be quite round and squishy.
Since its discovery, scientists have also gone to study the species. A newly released study went to offer details.
Research results were released earlier this week. On December 19, they were published in the Current Biology journal. The study was released under the following name. “Association of deep-sea incirrate octopods with manganese crusts and nodule fields in the Pacific Ocean”.
Research was led by Autun Purser. He is part of the German Alfred Wegener Institute Center for Polar and Marine Research Biosciences division. More exactly, the Deep Sea Ecology and Technology area.
The Casper octopod and its relatives were studied. Researchers used data gathered by an ROV. ROVs are remotely operated underwater vehicles. They were used to study the octopods in their natural habitat.
At 2 to 3 miles below the surface, such a study could not have been carried out without ROVs. The deep-sea octopods are all finless specimens. The Casper octopod was included in this family.
A study of their customs revealed their following practice. Finless octopods were seen to lay their eggs in dead sponges. They also brood there. However, their natural habitat may be more threatened than previously believed.
Both the Casper octopod and its relatives prefer a certain sponge type. These sponges grow in very specific regions. They need a substrate that contains manganese nodules.
Manganese nodules are clusters of manganese and iron. Found in deep sea crusts, they are commercially valuable. In recent years, mining companies have been turning their attention towards them.
Some even proposed a mining of the bottom of the ocean. However, these areas are still quite understudied and largely unexplored.
Recent discoveries, such as the Casper octopod, point out our limited data. More recently, six new species were also discovered. Living on hydrothermal vents, they could also be in danger.
Some could also be very rare. Such an example is the same Casper. This is one of the only finless octopod species to have ever been discovered.
According to the new research, scientists are fearing that it may already be at risk. The Casper octopods depend on their natural habitat. More exactly, they rely on the dead sponges. These are the basis of their egg laying and brooding process.
The team of researchers is worried that this area could be destroyed. Deep sea mining could either target or affect the zone. It is almost sure to have an effect on the species.
It could potentially prevent the animals from reproducing. As such, the new species would be lost before it is even properly discovered.
As such, the researchers are pointing out the need for more studies. They argue that more research is needed before allowing deep-sea mining operations. Its potential effects on the environment must be studied.
Such practices may unwillingly lead to habitat losses. The newly discovered species still hold too many unknown variables. And researchers also point out the as yet potentially undiscovered species.
Both new discoveries, such as the Casper octopod, and current species could risk becoming extinct if the necessary precautions are not taken.
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