Bizarre creatures seen at the bottom of the sea during expedition


Sea pigs, unicumbers and other strange creatures were found during an expedition under the sea in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) in the central Pacific. The region has been a target of interest for researchers due to its biodiversity and mining potential.

  • The expedition is part of the SMARTEX project, which aims to better understand the region’s ecosystem and how its components interact;
  • Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the mission also had support from the National Oceanography Center;
  • The biodiversity that the researchers investigated lives at the bottom of the ocean, between 4 and 5 thousand meters.
Unicumber is a transparent sea cucumber (Credit: © #NHMDeepSea Group, Natural History Museum, UK)

The expedition led by Adrian Glover, a deep-sea researcher at the Natural History Museum in London (NHM), used cameras to take several captures of the oddities that inhabit this region, which include a species of transparent sea cucumber known as the unicumber and the rattail fish, one of the few vertebrates to live at these depths. In response to IFLScience, marine biologist Regen Drennan pointed out that many of the captured creatures will likely be species new to science. This is because, even if they have been previously observed, they have not been formally described, like the pink sea pig.

All specimens collected will be brought back to the museum, where they will be identified and studied by researchers here. Some can be described as new species, and many of the specimens will be used for research looking at patterns of diversity on the seafloor in this area.

Eva Stewart, NHM PhD student

The rattla fish is one of the few vertebrates that live this deep in the ocean (Credit: © #NHMDeepSea Group, Natural History Museum, UK)
The rattla fish is one of the few vertebrates that live this deep in the ocean (Credit: © #NHMDeepSea Group, Natural History Museum, UK)

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Mining the region where the creatures live

The researchers’ interest in investigating the CCZ is related to the existence of large fields of sea potatoes, also known as deep-sea tubers or manganese nodules. Despite the name, these “tubers” are actually black rocks rich in cobalt, nickel and manganese, essential elements for the production of electric cars.

Although the region represents only 0.5% of the seabed, it contains the world’s largest source of these minerals. It is estimated that the amount of manganese, nickel and cobalt at the site is sufficient to produce 280 million vehicles, corresponding to a quarter of the world’s car fleet.

Mining the area under the sea would impact the environment less than if it were done on land, such as in the forests of Indonesia. This way, the expedition can also investigate how mining these materials can affect the strange creatures that live in the region.

The distribution of these animals appeared to be quite patchy — the dominant sea cucumber on one ROV dive may be completely absent elsewhere, with a different one being more common. But in terms of the density we are used to, for example in terrestrial or shallower marine systems, the deep sea in general (and this area of ​​the CCZ) is characterized by very low population densities, largely because food is so limited. in these deep regions.

Regen Drennan

Now, more investigation into the creatures and the local ecosystem will need to be carried out before mining can actually take place.

The article is in Portuguese

Tags: Bizarre creatures bottom sea expedition



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