It never ceases to amaze me the vast array of creatures both on land and undersea. I was equally amazed to learn that scientists have uncovered new marine animals in their search of previously unexplored Australian waters. They have found a bizarre carnivorous sea squirt, described as a Venus flytrap, only bigger, and ocean-dwelling spiders. The sea squirt, also known as an ascidian, stands 50 centimeters tall on the sea floor at a depth of just over 4,000 meters. It traps prey in its funnel-like front section if they touch it when they swim past.
Lead researcher Ron Thresher said that a joint US-Australian team spent a month in deep waters off the coast of the southern island of Tasmania to “search for life deeper than any previous voyage in Australian waters.” Apparently, they not only found species new to science, including undescribed soft corals, but also new indication of global warming’s threat to Australia’s unique marine life.
“Our sampling documented the deepest known Australian fauna, including a bizarre carnivorous sea squirt, sea spiders and giant sponges, and previously unknown marine communities dominated by gooseneck barnacles and millions of round, purple-spotted sea anemones,” Thresher said.
Using a submersible car-sized robot named Jason, the team explored a rift in the earth’s crust known as the Tasman Fracture Zone, a sheer two kilometer (1.24 mile) drop to 4,000 meters (13,200 feet) below the ocean’s surface. Source: AFP
The rising sea temperatures are blamed on global warming caused by the build-up in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, which has also been blamed for higher acidity in sea water. A UN report warned in 2007 that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, described as the world’s largest living organism, could be killed by climate change within decades.
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