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Surprising Science

‘Lost World’ Discovered in Antarctica

Communities of species previously unknown to science have been discovered on the seafloor near Antarctica, clustered in the hot, dark environment surrounding hydrothermal vents.

What’s the Latest Development?

For the first time ever, scientists have explored the East Scotia Ridge deep beneath the Southern Ocean, discovering a trove of new species including a yeti crab, starfish, barnacles, sea anemoneseven an octopus. Vents on the sea floor spewing water from beneath the surface reach temperatures of over 700 degrees Fahrenheit, providing for an environment rich in chemicals though lacking in sunlight. Rather than take energy from the sun, these species breakdown chemical compounds like hydrogen sulphide.

What’s the Big Idea?

Scientists were as surprised by what they found as what they didn’t find. Many animals such as tubeworms, mussels, crabs and shrimp found near vents in other oceans were not present in the Southern Ocean. Leader of the research, Alex Rogers of Oxford University, commented on the diversity found in the world’s oceans. “Everywhere we look, whether it is in the sunlit coral reefs of tropical waters or these Antarctic vents shrouded in eternal darkness, we find unique ecosystems that we need to understand and protect.”

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