New Deep-Sea Creatures Found in Atlantic

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"Members of this fish family are viviparous, which means that instead of spawning eggs, they give birth to young," Bergstad said. "Practically nothing is known about their biology."

The team also turned up a type of anglerfish never before seen. So-called because they attract prey by waggling a glowing "lure" attached by a "rod" to their heads, anglerfish are the most diverse group of fishes below 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). The new, spiny specimen is thought to belong to the genus Lophodolos. Bergstad said the structure of its head and luring apparatus distinguish it from the two known species in the genus.

The team was not yet able to identify the species of several other anglerfish, Bergstad says. "It would not be surprising if some of these forms proved to be new to science as well after detailed examination," he added.

Of around 50 different types of octopods (the order of mollusks that includes octopuses) and squid captured, two deep-sea squid may also be new species.

Opaque Eyes

The first of the squid, which is deep orange with a small head and unusually small, semi-opaque eyes, is thought to belong to a family with just one named species to date.

The second unknown squid lost its tentacles in the trawl net. Another was later caught that was even more damaged, though its tentacles were still intact. Taken together, the two specimens should provide enough information to establish if this, too, is a new species, Bergstad said.

Bergstad was joined by scientists from 13 countries for the voyage between Iceland and the Azores islands off Portugal. They included researchers from Oceanlab at the U.K.'s University of Aberdeen. This group operated a seabed lander equipped with a digital camera.

The Oceanlab team discovered that the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a barrier to the movement of deep-sea fish between the east and west Atlantic Ocean. For instance, abyssal grenadier fish were confined to valleys on either side of the ridge. Tests on samples will determine whether eastern and western populations are, in fact, genetically distinct.

The team also filmed wolf fish and deep-sea sharks, which fought over mackerel bait attached to the lander.

But the fearsome wolf fish did exhibit a caring side to its nature, according to Oceanlab director Monty Priede. Males and females paired up in elaborate courtship rituals before keeping guard over their eggs.

"We had no idea these fish would be found living in the mid-ocean like this," he said. "It was quite poignant to see the devoted 'ugly couple' in their deep-sea Eden."

Bergstad emphasized that, not long ago, this type of search would have been imposible: "Investigations of [deep-sea] marine life have just begun, and it is only now—when we can utilize custom-built research ships and the finest modern technology—that we can learn how ecosystems in the oceans are structured and function."

Until now the deep sea had been largely, and almost literally, an unfathomable world.

For more ocean news, scroll down.

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