Scientists said Sunday they had uncovered new marine animals in their search of previously unexplored Australian waters, along with a bizarre carnivorous sea squirt and ocean-dwelling spiders.
A joint US-Australian team spent a month in deep waters off the coast of the southern island of Tasmania to “search for life deeper than any previous voyage in Australian waters,” lead researcher Ron Thresher said.
What they found were not only species new to science — including previously undescribed soft corals — but fresh indications of global warming’s threat to the country’s unique marine life.
“Our sampling documented the deepest known Australian fauna, including a bizarre carnivorous sea squirt, sea spiders and giant sponges, and previously unknown marine communities dominated by gooseneck barnacles and millions of round, purple-spotted sea anemones,” Thresher said.
Using a submersible car-sized robot named Jason, the team explored a rift in the earth’s crust known as the Tasman Fracture Zone, a sheer two kilometre (1.24 mile) drop to 4,000 metres (13,200 feet) below the ocean’s surface.
Blogging on board the ship, researcher Adam Subhas said the team witnessed some “cool biology” as they descended the fracture, including the sea squirt, which he described as “basically an underwater Venus fly trap, but much bigger.”
The sea squirt, also known as an ascidian, stands 50 centimetres tall on the sea floor at a depth of just over 4,000 metres. It traps prey in its funnel-like front section if they touch it when they swim past.
via AFP: Scientists find new creatures of Australian deep.