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Ocean life: 100 new sea creatures found in Chile

In a thrilling scientific adventure, researchers on a Schmidt Ocean Institute expedition have made a remarkable discovery: a multitude of never-before-seen life forms thriving off the Chilean coast.

From the dark depths to towering underwater mountains, this expedition revealed a hidden world teeming with life. Each dive brought new discoveries, challenging our understanding of the ocean’s depths.

Salas y Gomez Ridge

Dr. Javier Sellanes and his team plunged into the unknown, uncovering an unexplored water mountain: the Salas y Gomez Ridge. Spanning an impressive distance of over 1,800 miles, this underwater mountain range emerged as a focal point of the expedition.

As the team dove deeper, they discovered a world teeming with life. From tiny fish to giant whales, the ridge was like a bustling underwater city.

100 new species

The team made an astounding discovery: they found over 100 sea creatures living in the deep ocean that nobody knew existed before. These animals come in all shapes and sizes, and they each play a special role in the ocean ecosystem.

For example, the researchers found colorful corals that build homes for other animals on the dark ocean floor. They saw strange lobsters with long bodies and thin legs that scurry around rocks looking for food.

There were even delicate sponges that filter tiny particles from the water and spiraling corals that sway in the currents. Spiky urchins were also found, with shells that protect them from danger.

“We far exceeded our hopes on this expedition,” said Dr. Sellanes, who led the study. “You always expect to find new species in these remote and poorly explored areas, but the amount we found, especially for some groups like sponges, is mind-blowing.”

Four previously unknown seamounts

In addition to discovering new species, Dr. Sellanes’s team mapped four previously unknown seamounts within the Salas y Gomez Ridge. Each mountain harbored its own distinct ecosystem. 

Among them, the tallest seamount, unofficially named Solito, stood as a towering giant, reaching an astonishing height of 3,530 meters. To put this into perspective, Solito reaches nearly 70% of the height of Mount Everest (8,848 meters). 

The discovery of these seamounts provides valuable insights into the geological diversity of the Salas y Gomez Ridge and the habitats it supports. Each seamount creates a unique environment, offering refuge and resources for a variety of marine life. From the depths of the ocean floor to the sunlit shallows near the summit, these landforms contribute to the rich biodiversity of the region.

Furthermore, the identification and mapping of the seamounts contribute to our understanding of the broader marine ecosystem. By studying the geological features and associated marine life of these underwater mountains, scientists can gain valuable insights into oceanic processes and the interconnectedness of marine habitats.

Study implications

Over 100 new species show how much unseen life exists in the ocean. This means we urgently need to protect these fragile ecosystems from stressors like fishing, pollution, and habitat destruction. 

The deep sea helps regulate Earth’s climate by storing carbon and supporting food webs. Knowing more about these ecosystems helps us understand how they’ll respond to climate change. The expedition’s findings give us valuable data to predict and address these challenges.

Moreover, the giant underwater mountain range shows how much of the ocean remains unexplored. We must keep exploring and mapping these areas to better understand Earth’s geology, life, and ocean currents. This knowledge helps us learn more about our planet and guides future research and conservation efforts.

Image Credit: ROV SuBastian/ Schmidt Ocean Institute 

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