Weird Creatures Found on Deep-Sea "Mountain Range"

Kate Ravilious
for National Geographic News
August 21, 2007

Abundant new and rare marine species have been discovered on a deep-sea mountain range in the middle of the North Atlantic, scientists say.

Exotic worms, colorful corals, unusual sea cucumbers, and a plethora of weird fish are among the creatures that scientists spotted on a recent expedition to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater range that divides the North Atlantic Ocean in two.

At least one new species, a tiny crustacean called a seed shrimp, is likely new to science, researchers said.

Another exciting find was a "spiral poo worm," an animal first identified in 2005 that deposits spiral-shaped feces, some of which have been found in the fossil record dating back hundreds of millions of years.

"We found lots of these primitive species," said expedition leader Monty Priede, director of the Oceanlab research center at Britain's University of Aberdeen.

The expedition brought together an international team of 31 scientists coordinated by the Norway-based MAR-ECO project and the global Census of Marine Life program initiative.

(See photos of deep-sea creatures discovered in Antarctica this year.)

Over five weeks, the researchers explored and mapped more than 1,500 square miles (3,900 square kilometers) of the deep-sea ridge between Iceland and the Azores islands off Portugal (see Europe map).

"It was like going to a new country," Priede said.

Undersea Alps

Using the latest technology, including remotely operated underwater vehicles, the researchers were able to observe creatures living between depths of 2,600 and 11,500 feet (800 and 3,500 meters).

Until now this region of the ocean had scarcely been explored because of its remoteness and depth.

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