Environment

deep sea, ocean

Stranger Than Fiction: Researchers Discover Sea Creatures Stranger Than Brown Bar-ba-loots

February 07, 2010 09:00 AM
by Colleen Brondou
Weird animals have long been found in children’s literature. Now scientists are finding animals deep in the ocean that are just as bizarre.

Study Catalogs the Ocean’s Depths

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Scientists taking part in the Census of Marine Life have tallied more than 17,500 species of deep sea creatures living about three miles below the ocean’s surface, a Census press release reported. Using sonar and deep-towed cameras, the researchers found bizarre creatures that live in complete darkness, such as “dumbos,” primitive animals that flap large, ear-like fins to swim, and the “wildcat” tubeworm, which feeds on chemicals from decomposing oil.

“Most have adapted to diets based on meager droppings from the sunlit layer above, others to diets of bacteria that break down oil, sulfur and methane, the sunken bones of dead whales and other implausible foods,” according to the press release.

Cain Burdeau, writing for The Associated Press, said the researchers have found approximately 5,600 new species, in addition to the 230,000 known species.

“The deep sea was considered a desert until not so long ago; it’s quite amazing to have documented close to 20,000 forms of life in a zone that was thought to be barren,” Jesse Ausubel of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a census sponsor, told the AP. “The deep sea is the least explored environment on earth.

Background: Census of Marine Life

The Census of Marine Life is made up of researchers from more than 80 countries around the world engaged in a 10-year initiative to study life in our oceans. According to its Web site, “The stated purpose of the Census of Marine Life is to assess and explain the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life. Each plays an important role in what is known, unknown, and may never be known about what lives in the global ocean.” The census will be complete in October 2010.

In February 2009, the Census of Marine Life found that hundreds of the same species live in both Arctic and Antarctic waters, illustrating the scientific and biological importance of these regions.

Related Topic: Weird animals

The weirdest animals in the world are often the most endangered, and many of them reside deep in the Earth’s oceans. Giant sea spiders, jellyfish and sea snails were just some of the discoveries made in the Ross Sea near Antarctica in 2008.

Reference: Marine biology

MarineBio.org is a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing “the wonders of the ocean to inspire conservation, education, research and a sea ethic.” The organization is staffed by volunteer professors, marine biologists, students and conservation advocates. Visit the site to find academic resources, information on education and careers in marine biology, marine science games and quizzes, and more.
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