On Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010, findings of potentially 40 new plant and animal species were released. Using new, cutting-edge technology, scientists explored the waters off Indonesia and were astonished by the diversity of colorful life under the waves and on the floor of the ocean.
Some of their new findings include plate-sized sea spiders and what seem to be carnivorous sponges that are bright and flowery in appearance.
The expedition lasted three weeks and ended Aug. 14. The Indonesian expedition included more than 100 hours of video and 100,000 photographs. The photos and videos were transmitted in real-time by satellite and high-speed Internet to the shore from the robotic vehicle equipped with high-definition cameras that explored the ocean floor.
The robotic vehicle covered an enormous 21,000 square mile area (54,000 sq. kilometers) that scientists mapped with powerful sonar equipment. The sea floor is located off northern Indonesia, and the depth ranged from 800 feet (240 meters) to depths of over two miles (1.6 kilometers).
Verena Tunnicliffe, a professor at the University of Victoria in Canada, wrote this in a statement about sea lilies: “Stalked sea lilies once covered the ocean, shallow and deep, but now are rare. I’ve only seen a few in my career. But on this expedition, I was amazed to see them in great diversity.”
She also claimed that this collection of images provided the scientific world with a rare opportunity to look into the sea’s complex marine ecosystems. This area is considered to contain of the world’s most complex and least-known ecosystems.
Speaking of ecosystems, Tunnicliffe has witnessed sea spiders previously. The spiders that were captured on film in this expedition are exponentially larger than those ones, which were about one-inch (2.5 centimeters) long.
Another notable creature captured on film that intrigues scientists is a species with a flower-like appearance that is covered with glass-like needles. Scientists theorize that it is most likely a sponge that is carnivorous in nature. The (probably) sponge seems to capture its food with needle-like spikes that cover its body and are covered with some sort of sticky tissue.
It will take some time to decide whether any of the species are newly discovered or not; confirmation of a new species can take years. It involves a scientific peer review and other steps before a species can officially be declared “new.”
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration completed the mission with their ship, Okenos Explorer, while the Baruna Jaya IV, an Indonesian ship, partnered with them. The specimens collected by the Baruna Jaya IV will remain in Indonesia with all rights for future use granted to the country.
For pictures of the new species, check here.
For more ocean news, see this article about the Gulf Coast Oil Disaster.
Deep-sea images reveal colorful life off Indonesia