An international team of marine scientists has discovered 30 new species of invertebrates in deep water surrounding the Galapagos, the Ecuadoran archipelago’s national park authorities announced on Monday.
The deep-sea experts discovered fr
Scientists discover dozens of new species in Galapagos depths
agile coral and sponges including 10 bamboo corals, four octocorals, one brittle star and 11 sponges – as well as four new species of crustacean known as squat-lobsters – the Galapagos National Park (GNP) said in a statement.
“These discoveries include the first giant solitary soft coral known for the Tropical Eastern Pacific, a new genus of glass sponge that can grow in colonies of over one meter in width and, colorful sea fans that host a myriad of associated species,” the archipelago’s Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) said in a separate statement.
Scientists from the CDF, in collaboration with the National Park Directorate and the Ocean Exploration Trust, probed deep-sea ecosystems at depths of up to 3,400 metres (11,154ft) using state-of-the-art Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs).
The two ROVs, Argus and Hercules, were operated from the 64-metre (209ft) exploration vessel Nautilus, which carried out the deep-sea probe in 2015.
The expedition explored, for the first time, three steep-sided underwater mountains, or seamounts, located near the islands of Darwin and Wolf in the archipelago’s north. The area is home to the world’s largest shark population.
“These pristine seamounts are within the Galapagos Marine Reserve and are protected from destructive human practices, such as fishing with bottom trawls or deep-sea mining, that are known to have catastrophic impacts upon fragile communities. Now, it is our responsibility to make sure they remain pristine for the generations to come,” Salinas de Leon said.
“The many discoveries made on this expedition showcase the importance of deep-sea exploration to developing an understanding of our oceans,” said Nicole Raineault, chief scientist of the Ocean Exploration Trust.
“Since we never know what we’re going to find, we utilise land-based scientists who watch the ROV dives from home and communicate directly with the shipboard team in real-time, to help determine what is truly new and worthy of further investigation or sampling.