Over 17,000 exotic new marine species 'discovered'

Over 17,000 exotic new marine species 'discovered'



Underwater Robot
 This undated photo released by Census of Marine Life and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution shows engineers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution recovering the hybrid underwater robot Nereus aboard the 135 foot RV Cape Hatteras in deteriorating weather conditions above the Mid-Cayman Spreading Center in the Caribbean Sea.  AP Photo

Among the species, discovered by an international team of over 300 scientists from 34 nations, are sea angels, jewel squid, helmet jellies and a two-metre-wide octopod that flies with ear-like fins, 'The Times' reported.

For example, the octopod, nicknamed the "Jumbo Dumbo" for its passing resemblance to fictional flying elephant, was found during an expedition to mid-Atlantic ridge this year.

Odd Aksel Bergstad of the University of Bergen, the leader of that cruise, said: "If it came up in a trawl it would just be a lump of jelly, but photograph it from a submersible, and it's very beautiful and graceful.

"We know very little about how they live. They're predators but we don't know what they feed on or how they reproduce. At least one of the nine kinds we found is probably a new species.

"Because it provides an oasis of topographical relief in the centre of the ocean, we found a high concentration of animals on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge."

The expedition -- some 200 cruises -- undertaken to explore the deep ocean for the International Census of Marine Life also yielded more than 680 specimens of fly-like copepod, only seven of which could be identified.

"New species aren't news for deep-ocean scientists, they're a problem. The figure of 17,000 species is just what's made the logbooks, it's what we can deal with. If you want the real figure you can multiply that by a hundred or a thousand," said Robert Carney of Louisiana State University, one of the leaders of the census.

Thousands of marine species eke out an existence in the ocean's pitch-black depths by feeding on the snowlike decaying matter that cascades down, and even sunken whale bones, according to a report released on Sunday.

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