Scientists discover new marine organisms in Aleutian Islands

November 14th, 2007 - 8:20 am ICT by admin  
A team from the University of Alaska Fairbanks surveyed the western region of the Aleutians this year. Last year, an assessment of the eastern region was undertaken.

The organisms were found while surveying more than 1000 miles of rarely-explored coastline, from Attu to the Tigalda Islands. Logging more than 300 hours underwater, the divers collected hundreds of water, biological and chemical samples during 440 dives. Armed with underwater cameras and video cameras, the divers took hundreds of photographs and dozens of short movies of the creatures that inhabit the coast of the Aleutians.

During the dives, two potentially new species of sea anemones have been discovered, whose size ranges from that of a softball to the size of a basketball.

“These are ‘walking’ or ’swimming’ anemones because they move across the seafloor as they feed. While most sea anemones are anchored to the seabed, a ’swimming’ anemone can detach and drift with ocean currents,” says Stephen Jewett, a professor of marine biology and the dive leader on the expedition .

Another new species is a kelp or brown algae that scientists have named the “Golden V Kelp” or Aureophycus aleuticus. Up to ten feet long, the kelp was discovered near thermal vents in the region of the Islands of the Four Mountains. According to Mandy Lindeberg, a member of the expedition, “The kelp may represent a new genus, or even family, of the seaweed”.

Samples from the dives are being used to catalog biodiversity in the region, assess water quality and potential contaminants. According to Jewett, this is the first time the remote nearshore region of the Aleutian Chain has undergone an in-depth marine assessment.

“Since the underwater world of the Aleutian Islands has been studied so little, new species are being discovered, even today,” said Jewett. He adds that even more new species may be revealed as samples collected during the dives continue to be analyzed. (ANI)

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