Extreme New Species Discovered by Sea-Life Survey

December 11, 2006

A host of weird and wonderful discoveries from across the seven seas has been discovered this year, according to a global census of ocean life.

Heat-resistant volcanic shrimps, bacteria-farming furry crabs, and a giant species of lobster are among the finds made by marine scientists probing some of the world's deepest and remotest seas.

(Related photos: See some of the creatures.)

The discoveries add to the Census of Marine Life, a project that seeks to record all known ocean life, living and extinct, by 2010. The census, now in its sixth year, involves a network of more than 1,700 researchers in at least 70 countries.

One team involved in the census reported the discovery of marine animals thriving in the hottest ocean waters ever recorded.

Heat-resistant species of mussels and shrimps were found living alongside volcanic fissures where temperatures reached 765 degrees Fahrenheit (407 degrees Celsius).

Submersible robots detected the sea creatures 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) beneath the surface of the South Atlantic, some 300 miles (550 kilometers) south of the Equator.

"These animals are living in environments in which temperatures can flicker instantly over a range of about 80 degrees Celsius [176 degrees Fahrenheit]," said survey team member Chris German of the Southampton Oceanography Centre in England.

"They are living as close to the vents as they dare get without getting themselves boiled alive," he added.

"Some of the mussel beds have been buried in lava," German said. "Such are the hazards of living on top of a volcano—it really is a life in the extremes."

(See a National Geographic magazine feature on looking for life near deep-sea vents.)

Biggest, "Hairiest" New Speices

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