The deepest census survey took place more than three miles (five kilometers) down in the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic. There, researchers trawled up more than 500 species of microscopic animals called zooplankton. Twelve are likely to be new species.
The researchers used sophisticated nets that can be individually closed and opened at the touch of a computer key.
The team's catch included many strange and menacing looking species, such as the one pictured—a prawnlike crustacean called an amphipod. An amphipod supposedly inspired the monster in the movie Alien.
These extreme deep-sea species survive by eating each other or by latching on to dead fish and other organic matter that floats down from above, researchers say.
Further surveys are planned by the team, which estimates that at least 1,600 new zooplankton species will be discovered worldwide by 2010.
The team says most previous studies of ocean zooplankton have focused on species living at depths of fewer than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). Below that level, little is known about zooplankton diversity, distribution, and abundance.
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Photograph by R. Hopcroft, University of Alaska Fairbanks ©2006, Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life