Research Led To The Discovery Of Six New Underwater Species

six new underwater vent species

A study expedition carried out in 2011 led to the discovery of six new underwater animal species.

A study expedition carried out in 2011 led to the discovery of six new underwater animal species in the waters of the Indian Ocean.

Earth’s oceans are a vast world still mostly unknown to humans. From their depth to their inhabitants, such water bodies are a mystery on their own.

However, a 2011 study way have shed some more light on the animal species inhabiting the planet’s waters.

A team of University of Southampton researchers took to explore the Indian Ocean. Led by John Copley, the team published its study earlier this week.

The study was released on December 14, in the Scientific Reports journal. It was titled as follows. “Ecology and biogeography of megafauna and macrofauna at the first known deep-sea hydrothermal vents on the ultraslow-spreading Southwest Indian Ridge.”

Research is based on data gathered from a geological expedition. This was carried out in 2011, in the Southwest Indian Ocean.

Exploration was made possible by the help of a remotely operated vehicle. The area it surveyed is called the Dragon’s Breath, or Longqi. It is around 2 miles below the water’s surface. It is also some 1,200 miles of Madagascar.

Longqi is known to hold hydrothermal vents. These are undersea hot springs located 1.7 miles deep. They are the only such formations to be found in the respective area.

The minerals and heat they release attract as well as host various sea creatures and ecosystems. Hydrothermal vents are also known to create “vent chimneys”.

These are spires of minerals formed from the vent emissions. Copper and gold deposits have also been found in such formations.

Jon Copley, the study lead, and his team were the first to cast a closer look at them. Using the rover, they gathered data on the specimen housed by the vents.

The six new underwater animal species were confirmed through DNA tests. Copley expressed some of his team’s theories.

According to the lead, the six new underwater species may live in other places as well. They are certain that the animals also lived elsewhere. However, for the moment, the team cannot say where.

They also have yet to determine how they might have migrated.

Amongst the six new underwater species, research identified two snail species. A hairy-chested ‘Hoff’ crab species and a limpet were also found. A scaleworm, as well as another deep-sea worm species,  complete the discovery list.

Just one of the species has been named. One of the new snail types has been named the Gigntopelta aegis. The rest have yet to be formally described.

Studies showed the resemblance of the new Indian ‘Hoff’ crab to its Antarctic relatives. The explorations of two Antarctic vents revealed the presence of such crabs.

Researchers are now looking to carry out more explorations. They will be seeking to study other hydrothermal vents. They are also hoping for a closer look at the biological diversity of the southwest Indian Ocean.

Copley stated that the discovery of the six new unwater species specifically reveals this need. Another study would have to investigate a possible relation between vents. This would analyze their inhabitants and their link.

Such research will have to be carried out before anything else. Copley is referring to deep-sea mining assessments.

Their underwater studies also point out the need for more ocean studies. Such formations comprise an estimated 96.5 percent of the planet’s waters.

Image Source: Wikimedia