1,000-year-old sea creatures found

July 22nd, 2010 - 2:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, July 22 (IANS) Canadian and Spanish scientists have discovered rare species of marine life, with some creatures more than 1,000 years old.
According to the scientists, these creatures found off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador hold clues to the secrets of ancient underwater ecosystems.

These rare marine creatures have been spotted by researchers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and scientists from three Canadian universities and the Spanish Institute of Oceanography.

The discovery was made when the scientists, who were on a 20-day expedition, used a robot to take pictures and to grab samples of coral and sponges up to three kilometres deep in the waters, according to reports.

During the course of the research, they discovered at least two new species of coral and six sponges, located thousands of metres down, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper quoted Ellen Kenchington, one of the leaders on the expedition, as saying.

These coral and sponges - which are extremely fragile - are essential in keeping the areas abundant with the marine life, she said.

She said her team is assessing whether larger swathes of these areas need to be protected from fishing, in order to keep these stocks sustainable.

The Canadian scientist said these areas are important because they contain the ‘trees of the ocean’ - the coral that can grow several metres tall and change the flow of water currents.

“It’s a similar function a tree would serve in the forest, cutting down wind, providing branches for birds. We have the same type of communities that take shelter down there,” she was quoted as saying.

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