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Scientists Discover 6 Unique Marine Life Species at the Indian Ocean

Dec 16, 2016 04:00 AM EST
Found in a placed called Dragon's Breath, the underwater creatures feed on the minerals and nutrients from hot fluids gushing out of the vent chimneys. (Photo : Aishath Adam/Getty Images)

New animal species have been found from the ocean floor of the southwest Indian Ocean. The amazing marine discovery was made by scientists from the University of Southampton in an undersea hot springs roughly 2.8 kilometres deep, at Longqi, also known as "Dragon's Breath," 2000 kilometres southeast of Madagascar.

Headed by Dr. Jon Copley, the team of researchers explored the massive ocean floor as big as a football stadium. The team identified at least a dozen mineral spires or "vent chimneys," which rise more than two storeys above the seabed and are notably rich in copper and gold that is reportedly sparking an interest for future seafloor mining. These ocean spires are filled with underwater creatures that feed on the minerals and nutrients from hot fluids gushing out of the vent chimneys.

Their paper entitled "Ecology and biogeography of megafauna and macrofauna at the first known deep-sea hydrothermal vents on the ultraslow-spreading Southwest Indian Ridge," found deep-sea animals only known to be from Longqi. These include: a species of hairy-chested 'Hoff' crab, closely related to 'Hoff' crabs at Antarctic vents; two species of snail and a species of limpet; a species of scaleworm; and another species of deep-sea worm. Aside from a single species of snail, given the scientific name Gigantopelta aegis, most of the mentioned species have not yet been officially described, Phys.Org wrote.

"We can be certain that the new species we've found also live elsewhere in the southwest Indian Ocean, as they will have migrated here from other sites, but at the moment no-one really knows where, or how well-connected their populations are with those at Longqi," said Dr Copley. "Our results highlight the need to explore other hydrothermal vents in the southwest Indian Ocean and investigate the connectivity of their populations, before any impacts from mineral exploration activities and future deep-sea mining can be assessed."

"Finding these two species at Longqi shows that some vent animals may be more widely distributed across the oceans than we realised," added Dr Copley, Eureka Alert reported.

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