More Than 100 New Species Found on Underwater Mountains in South Pacific, Researchers Say

Marine researchers say they discovered more than 100 new species and several previously unidentified seamounts during an expedition in the southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile, over January and February.

A Schmidt Ocean Institute expedition led by Dr Javier Sellanes of Chile’s Universidad Catolica del Norte identified species including deep-sea corals, glass sponges, sea urchins, amphipods, squat lobsters, and others during an exploration of seamounts along the Nazca and Salas y Gomez Ridge, located both inside and outside of Chile’s jurisdiction, the Schmidt Ocean Institute said.

Using an underwater robot capable of reaching depths of 4,500 meters, or just under three miles, researchers mapped 52,777 square kilometers of seafloor and discovered four previously unknown seamounts, or underwater mountains, according to the institute.

“The scientists found that each seamount hosted distinct ecosystems, many of which are vulnerable, including thriving deep-sea coral reefs and sponge gardens,” they said.

“We far exceeded our hopes on this expedition. You always expect to find new species in these remote and poorly explored areas, but the amount we found, especially for some groups like sponges, is mind-blowing,” said Sellanes. “These thriving and healthy ecosystems indicate that the Nazca-Desventuradas and Juan Fernandez Marine Parks effectively protect delicate marine habitats.”

The Schmidt Ocean Institute said a second expedition would launch on February 24, and its underwater dives would be streamed live on the institute’s YouTube channel. Credit: Schmidt Ocean Institute via Storyful

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