Rare species discovered in the deep sea near Japan. In Japanese waters of the Northwest Pacific, researchers have discovered a new species of the rare phylum Loricifera. Since the phylum was first identified in 1983, just under 40 species have been described.
The Loricifera is a microscopic, marine invertebrate that lives in deep sea sediment. It has a head covered in over 200 spines and an abdomen with a protective shell, which is known as a lorica.
“Loricifera is a rare animal that is still under-researched, but our recent finding improves our understanding of the species’ diversity,” said study lead author Shinta Fujimoto.
Loricifera are usually found in the space between sand and mud particles in the ocean. There are Loricifera fossils that date all the way back to the Cambrian period, which indicates the phylum has a long history of life on Earth.
The exact position of Loricifera in the animal tree of life is unknown.The mysterious animals have complicated life cycles and a few species are reported to live in anoxic environments.
A team of researchers led by Tohoku University has introduced the new species of Loricifera. The creatures were found in Japanese waters from the continental slope to the deeper sea. This is the second time a new Loricifera species has been discovered near Japan – the first was spotted in 1988 in the Izu-Ogasawara Trench.
Fujimoto and his team hope to uncover as much as they can about this rare species. “Each new species provides us with answers, but also more questions. We will keep on looking for these extraordinary animals to understand the species’ diversity, ecology, life history and evolution.”
The study is published in the journal Marine Biodiversity.