Scientists find a jackpot of rich marine life near Australia

October 10th, 2008 - 3:19 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Oct 10 (ANI): Scientists have found 274 new species of corals, starfish, sponges, shrimps, and crabs 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) beneath the surface of the ocean around Antarctica.

Some of the corals were found to be about 2,000 years old.

According to a report in New Scientist, CSIRO made the discoveries in two separate voyages to marine reserves located 100 to 200 nautical miles off the southern coast of the island of Tasmania, Australia.

We know very little about the deep sea, said lead scientist Nic Bax, a marine biologist with Australias Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Hobart, Tasmania.

Finding out how much live coral is down there, and how large those communities are, is very exciting, he added.

This is the third large group of marine species recently discovered in Australian waters.

Using powerful cameras, scientists shot 8,000 pictures and more than 100 hours of video footage of the seafloor.

They also discovered 145 undersea canyons and 80 new seamounts, or underwater mountains.

Seamounts can sprawl 15.6 miles (25 kilometers) across and rise thousands of feet from the seabed.

In the deep sea, where the ocean bottom is nothing more than muddy sediment, rocky seamounts offer a stable habitat that provides shelter and food for sea life, Bax said.

As such, seamounts support a jackpot of rich marine life in a quiet, dark world.

The new research is part of a larger scheme to map and evaluate Australia’’s marine territory, an area bigger than the countrys landmass.

We probably know more about the surface of the moon than we do about some of the vast reaches of our oceans, said Peter Garrett, Australias minister for the environment, heritage and the arts.

We clearly have an important national interest in understanding the range and abundance of sea life that’’s within our maritime borders, he added.

Such research will also feed into the Census of Marine Life, a global network of researchers aiming to develop a comprehensive picture of the worlds oceans. The first census report is due to be released in 2010.

According to Justin Marshall, a marine scientist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, with only 87 percent of Australian waters unmapped, it’’s not surprising that huge numbers of new species are being discovered. (ANI)

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