12 April 2008

National Geographic Adventure - Giant, Unknown Animals Found off Antarctica

March 28, 2008—Giant sea stars or starfish that measure 24 inches (60 centimeters) across are held by Sadie Mills, left, and Niki Davey of New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research on February 15, 2008.

They and other researchers collected 30,000 sea creatures—many new to science—during a 35-day census in Antarctic waters in February and March, according to a March 26 announcement.

The large-scale survey was part of the International Polar Year and Census of Antarctic Marine Life programs, which study the diversity of Antarctic marine life. This hydroid—likely a new species—measures 2.5 inches (6.5 centimeters) across its “head” and has stalks over 39 inches (100 centimeters) long.

The colorful coral-like animal was snagged from one of 39 sites surveyed by New Zealand scientists in southern Antarctica's Ross Sea in February and March 2008.

On the 2,000-mile (3,218-kilometer) journey, the team collected specimens from the surface to the seabed, where this hydroid was found. A mysterious animal with a small crustacean perched on its back floats 7,218 feet (2,200 meters) below the surface in the Ross Sea off southern Antarctica.

The 19-inch-long (50-centimeter-long) creature might be a tunicate, or sea squirt, say scientists who found it during a large-scale survey of Antarctic life in early 2008.

The Antarctic summer's perpetual daylight meant that the New Zealand team could canvass the sea day and night. Collected from the Ross Sea shelf in southern Antarctica, this 9.8-inch-long (25-centimeter-long) giant sea spider was one of 30,000 animals found during a 35-day census in early 2008.

The marine arachnids, which prey on hydroids and bryzoans—branching, coral-like animals—are larger and more common in Antarctic waters than anywhere else on Earth.

Cold temperatures, few predators, and high levels of oxygen in seawater could explain their gargantuan size, Don Robertson of New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research told the Associated Press.

An Antarctic octopus found at 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) in southern Antarctica's Ross Sea was one of about 18 octopus species recorded during a survey conducted in early 2008.

New Zealand scientists estimate they also collected 88 species of fish—8 of which are new species—as well as 8 species of squid on the 50-day journey. This predatory fish, called a stareater, uses its luminous red chin appendage to lure prey into striking distance.

The fish was one of more than 30,000 marine creatures hauled up by a team of 26 scientists and 18 crew during a census of Antarctic life in early 2008.

The team endured icy weather as cold as 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 13 degrees Celsius)—which caused equipment to freeze up and samples to ice over as soon as they landed on deck. This 19-inch-long (50-centimeter-long) daggertooth sports a striking iridescent body and sapphire blue eyes.

An Antarctic neighbor of the predatory stareater, this fish is one of the southernmost daggertooths ever caught, said New Zealand scientists who captured it during a marine census in early 2008.

The animal uses its long mouth and forward-curved teeth to immobilize prey, clamping down and pulling back to tear through and paralyze the victim's spine. This shrimplike crustacean was collected 985 feet (300 meters) deep on the Ross Sea shelf, during a marine census led by New Zealand scientists in early 2008.

This amphipod species was first discovered during a 2004 Antarctic voyage aboard the research ship Tangaroa.

The tiny creatures are found in both seawater and fresh water, as well as in mud and sand.
This sea cucumber—held by Sadie Mills of New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research—is known as a sea pig.

Mills and colleagues collected the organism, among more than 30,000 animals, during a marine census of southern Antarctica in early 2008.

Sea cucumbers are part of a group of marine animals that inhabit the seafloor, including sea squirts, sea stars (starfish), sea slugs, corals, clams, sponges, and urchins.
High-powered cameras photographed this sea star or a starfish of the genus Labediaster (lower left) surrounded by brittle stars on a seamount 492 feet (150 meters) below the surface of Antarctica's Ross Sea.

The early-2008 marine survey is expected to yield eight new mollusk species, Stefano Schiaparelli of Italy's National Antarctic Museum in Genoa told the Associated Press.

“This is a new brick in the wall of Antarctic knowledge,” he said.
The New Zealand crew of the Tangaroa vessel conducted parallel sonar sweeps to map the geography of Antarctic sea life as part of a marine census in February and March 2008.

The team also used advanced video imaging to photograph the seafloor to a depth of 2.1 miles (3.5 kilometers)—resulting in eye-opening images of little-known polar animals


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