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Mysterious Creatures Found in Antarctica

Posted by Job on February 22, 2008

Mysterious Creatures Found in Antarctica

Australia (AP) – Scientists investigating the icy waters of Antarctica
said Tuesday they have collected mysterious creatures including giant
sea spiders and huge worms in the murky depths.

Australian experts taking part in an international program to take a census of marine life
in the ocean at the far south of the world collected specimens from up
to 6,500 feet beneath the surface, and said many may never have been
seen before.

Some of the animals far under the sea grow to
unusually large sizes, a phenomenon called gigantism that scientists
still do not fully understand.

“Gigantism is very common in
Antarctic waters,” Martin Riddle, the Australian Antarctic Division
scientist who led the expedition, said in a statement. “We have
collected huge worms, giant crustaceans and sea spiders the size of
dinner plates.”

The specimens were being sent to universities
and museums around the world for identification, tissue sampling and
DNA studies.

“Not all of the creatures that we found could be
identified and it is very likely that some new species will be recorded
as a result of these voyages,” said Graham Hosie, head of the census

The expedition is part of an ambitious international effort to map life forms in the Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean, and to study the impact of forces such as climate change on the undersea environment.

Three ships—Aurora Australis from Australia, France’s L’Astrolabe and
Japan’s Umitaka Maru—returned recently from two months in the region as
part of the Collaborative East Antarctic Marine Census. The work is
part of a larger project to map the biodiversity of the world’s oceans.

The French and Japanese ships sought specimens from the mid- and
upper-level environment, while the Australian ship plumbed deeper
waters with remote-controlled cameras.

“In some places every inch of the sea floor
is covered in life,” Riddle said. “In other places we can see deep
scars and gouges where icebergs scour the sea floor as they pass by.”

Among the bizarre-looking creatures the scientists spotted were
tunicates, plankton-eating animals that resemble slender glass
structures up to a yard tall “standing in fields like poppies,” Riddle

Other animals were equally baffling.

“They had
fins in various places, they had funny dangly bits around their
mouths,” Riddle told reporters. “They were all bottom dwellers so they
were all evolved in different ways to live down on the sea bed in the
dark. So many of them had very large eyes—very strange looking fish.”

Scientists are planning a follow-up expedition in 10 to 15 years to
examine the effects of climate changes on the region’s environment.

2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not
be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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