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Marine Science in the News: New species discovered!

Six new species have been discovered in undersea hot springs 2800 meters below the sea surface!

A research team from the University of Southampton used a deep-diving remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to explore a region of the ocean floor in the southeast Indian Ocean. The region they explored, called Longqi (“Dragon’s breath”), was covered in at least a dozen vent chimneys. These hydrothermal vents form at locations where sea water meets magma. Conditions in these hydrothermal vent communities are harsh: the superheated water can be from 60 degrees Celsius to over 450 degrees Celsius, there are mineral-rich deposits and water, the water is very acidic and the pressure is so intense that it has physical properties between a gas and a liquid.

Despite the severe conditions, these communities house a diverse array of marine life. Hydrothermal vents were discovered in 1977 and since then more than 400 new animal species have been identified around the chimneys. The six discovered species include a hairy-chested “Hoff” crab, 2 species of snail, a species of limpet, a species of scaleworm and another species of deep sea worm. These invertebrates so far are only known from Longqi. The team of scientists highlighted the need to explore other vent communities in the southwest Indian Ocean so they can examine the distribution of vent animals and the connectivity of their populations.

Journal reference:

Copley, J.T., L. Marsh, A.G. Glover, V. Huhnerbach, V.E. Nye, W.D.K. Reid, C.J. Sweeting, B.D. Wigham and H. Wiklund. 2016. Ecology and biogeography of megafauna and macrofauna at the first known deep-sea hydrothermal vents on the ultraslow-spreading Southwest Indian Ridge. Scientific Reports, 6:#39158. DOI: 10.1038/srep39158.

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