04 Jan 2012:
Teeming Ecosystem Found
Near Vents in Southern Ocean
Researchers exploring deep-sea hydrothermal vents near Antarctica in the Southern Ocean say they have discovered an ecosystem teeming with life
, including hundreds of hairy-chested yeti crabs, stalked
barnacles, and what could be a new species of octopus. Using a remotely operated vehicle to scan the sea bed near the East Scotia Ridge, located several miles under the ocean’s surface, a team of British scientists observed hundreds of yeti crabs clustered near the vents, where the water can reach temperatures of 752 degrees F (400 degrees C). Unlike yeti crabs discovered previously near hydrothermal vents in the South Pacific, these new crabs were found in greater numbers and had mats of hair covering their undersides, said Alex Rogers, an Oxford University researcher and lead author of the study published in the journal PLoS ONE
. The researchers also photographed a pale octopus they say could be a new species related to Vulcanoctopus hydrothermalis
, which has been found at other vents around the world. “One of the staggering things we did find is that these vents are completely different to those seen anywhere else — the animals existing at these vents are almost all new to science,” Rogers said.
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