The icy continent is usually home to about 1,000 scientists who study the isolated area in an effort to learn more about Earth’s history and the effects of climate change, but the pandemic has stopped that for now. Some projects have also focused on marine life in the waters around Antarctica, exploring an ecosystem that, in some cases, has not been explored for millions of years. Aboard the New Zealand research vessel RV Tangaroa, an international team of researchers used the latest technology to survey a portion of the sea floor near the still unknown Ross Sea.
But when photos were sent of three strange creatures, much larger than anything they had seen before, Dr. Dave Bowden was stunned.
He said, “As a benthic ecologist, I study everything that lives on the sea floor, but also everything related to the ecosystem on the sea floor.
“The Southern Ocean is an ocean with deep waters, so we are talking about depths from 3000 meters to 5000 meters.
“Basically, if we look at the Southern Ocean, southern New Zealand – the strip of the Ross Sea – we don’t know much.
“Our trip is on [RV] Tangaroa was the first to look at the northern continental slope of the Ross Sea and the first to look at a group of seamounts north of the Ross Sea.
“This gives you an idea of where we are. We are just getting started.”
Dr. Bowen revealed one of the creatures found during the 2012 expedition, explaining why he was so shocked.
“The main tools we use to sample these areas are high-resolution deepwater cameras – they are attached to a wire under the ship and give us an instant picture of the community’s structure.”
“The biodiversity of the Ross Sea continental shelf area is certainly high, but you cannot compare it to other parts of the world.
Read more: NASA revealed a ‘strange worm-like’ creature it discovered inside the Antarctic Rock
The reason is that the Antarctic continental shelf has been isolated from the rest of the planet for many years.
“This is a sea spider, and it is one of the interesting groups in the Antarctic group system because it is so much more diverse than the rest of the world, it grows very large.
“There is a tendency in some groups to bend toward the gigantism. It’s basically all legs, there’s basically no body, and that is different from anything we know.”
Then, the scientist grabbed a jar to reveal another strange creature during his interview with the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).
He added, “This is an example of another wonderful beast. It is a multi-headed worm. You will find them under a rock, but this is much bigger.” [than normal].
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There is debate as to whether Antarctica is the reason these things are larger, or if there were only subspecies of this animal that evolved in Antarctica and are not found anywhere else.
“ But one of the most fascinating discoveries from my trip was on a marine mountain north of the Ross Sea, where we found an unusual group of sea lilies – lilies – that are closely related to sea urchins.
The main difference is that it is installed in one position.
“The only place we’ve actually seen before is in the fossil records. We’ve never seen anything like this before alive on the sea floor.”
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