Scientists from London’s Natural History Museum (NHM) have discovered a mysterious collection of marine megafauna deep in the Pacific Ocean, including a sea slug that looks like a banana.
With the help of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) during the summer of 2018, scientists found 55 specimens hiding on the western edge of the gorge that lies between Hawaii and Mexico.
The discovery was found approximately 5,000 meters below sea level. From the collection of oddities in the ocean, there are seven confirmed as newly discovered species.
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Researchers have been exploring the east side of the gorge on a regular basis. However, the researchers have not done so in the western region, which is known as the Pacific Clarion-Clipperton Zone and includes several nearby seamounts (undersea mountains) because they are difficult for humans to reach.
“About 150 years ago, the Challenger [HMS] expedition explored this area, but as far as I know, not much research has been done since then,” said Guadalupe Bribiesca-Contreras, a biologist with NHM’s department of life sciences and lead author of the study.
“This part of the sea is almost untouched,” he continued. During the 2018 expedition, researchers continued to find interesting species. The team found, among other things, a banana-shaped elastic sea cucumber known as a gummy squirrel (Psychropotes longicauda) measuring nearly 60 cm.
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The team also found a marine sponge in the genus Hyalonema, whose body resembles a tulip flower. Of the potential new species discovered by scientists, perhaps the most interesting Bribiesca-Contreras is a coral in the genus Chrysogorgia . The reason, the coral’s pale orange polyp is similar to C. abludo, a species usually found in the Atlantic Ocean. But researchers later identified it as a new species that has not yet been named. This marks the first time corals of this genus have been found in the Pacific.
“Initially we thought it was the same species, but after further molecular research, we learned that it was morphologically different,” said Bribiesca-Contrerasshe.
He said many of the species found had not changed for a long time. “Many of these species, we saw through fossils and now they still look the same,” he said. Prior to the NHM expedition, many of these animals were only glimpsed in photos or videos, or were known from their fossil remains.
This mission allows scientists to study specimens as they move freely through marine habitats, and in the laboratory. Such investigations allow scientists to better understand remote and untouched deep-sea ecosystems. This is an important goal as the deep-sea mining industry continues to expand worldwide, Live Science quoted.
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The NHM Museum first opened on April 18, 1881, but its construction initiatives spanned 1753 due to the influence of Sir Hans Sloane, a physician and collector. Citing the official NHM website, Sloane traveled the world as a high-profile public physician. He collected natural history specimens and cultural artifacts along the way.
He then had 71,000 items in his collection in 1753. But he was willing to buy his collection to parliament, and finally the museum was owned by the British government.