Scientists find new creatures of Australian deep (Update, Video)

Jan 18, 2009
A bright red, undescribed species of shell-less coral, called an anthomastid or gorgons-head coral, at 1700 metres deep at the Cascade Plateau, off south-east Tasmania. Image: Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory WHOI

( -- Scientists said Sunday they had uncovered new marine animals in their search of previously unexplored Australian waters, along with a bizarre carnivorous sea squirt and ocean-dwelling spiders.

A four-week expedition to explore the deep ocean south-west of Tasmania has revealed new species of animals and more evidence of impacts of increasing carbon dioxide on deep-sea corals.

The collaborative voyage of US and Australian researchers was led by chief scientists Dr Jess Adkins from the California Institute of Technology and Dr Ron Thresher from CSIRO’s Climate Adaptation and Wealth from Oceans Flagships.

“We set out to search for life deeper than any previous voyage in Australian waters,” Dr Thresher says. “We also gathered data to assess the threat posed by ocean acidification and climate change on Australia’s unique deep-water coral reefs.”

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The half-metre-wide mouth of a 2-metre high "waffle-cone" sponge, found at a depth of 2197 metres in the Tasman Fracture Zone. The Tasman Fracture Zone is approximately 350 kilometres south-west of Hobart. Video: Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory WHOI

The survey through the Tasman Fracture Commonwealth Marine Reserve, south-west of Tasmania, explored the near vertical slice in the earth’s crust, known as the Tasman Fracture Zone, which drops from approximately 2000 metres to over 4000 metres.

“Our sampling documented the deepest known Australian fauna, including a bizarre carnivorous sea squirt, sea spiders and giant sponges, and previously unknown marine communities dominated by gooseneck barnacles and millions of round, purple-spotted sea anemones.”

All of these new species are located more than 2000 metres below the surface.

Vast fields of fossil corals were discovered below 1400 metres, and dated to more than 10,000 years old. The samples collected will be used to determine the periods over the last millions of years when reefs have existed south of Tasmania. They will also provide ancient climate data that contribute to models of regional and global climate change, based on historical circulation patterns in the Southern Ocean.

Modern-day deep-water coral reefs were also found, however there is strong evidence that this reef system is dying, with most reef-forming coral deeper than 1300 metres newly dead.

“We need to closely analyse the samples and measurements we collected before we can determine what’s caused this, as it could be the result of several factors, such as ocean warming, disease or increasing ocean acidity,” Dr Thresher says.

“Mathematical models predict that we could be seeing impacts of ocean acidification in this region. If our analysis identifies this phenomenon as the cause of the reef system’s demise, then the impact we are seeing now below 1300 metres might extend to the shallower portions of the deep-reefs over the next 50 years, threatening this entire community.”

The international research team aboard the research vessel RV Thomas G. Thompson deployed a deep diving, remotely operated submarine vehicle named Jason, belonging to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Jason, which is approximately the size of a small car, is capable of collecting samples and data, and photographing and filming areas as deep as 6000 metres. Jason made 14 dives lasting up to 48 hours each and reaching a maximum depth of 4010 metres.

Provided by CSIRO

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User comments : 10

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1 / 5 (1) Jan 18, 2009
3.3 / 5 (7) Jan 18, 2009

I would like to keep this science forum free of the off-color language that may be offensive to younger science minds. This is a site for learning and growing, not for dodging foul flack from less considerate individuals.
not rated yet Jan 18, 2009
That sea squirt is pretty cool.
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 18, 2009
Anyone else sick of "global warming" finding its way into a story where it isn't relevant? This is the FIRST TIME this area has been surveyed, so they really don't know what is "normal", and what impact "climate change" may be having.

And the Great Barrier Reef is actually doing very well, despite the alarmists' predictions to the contrary.
5 / 5 (2) Jan 18, 2009
Though close analysis of samples was still required, Thresher said modelling suggested ocean acidification could be responsible.

"If our analysis identifies this phenomenon as the cause of the reef system's demise, then the impact we are seeing now below 1,300 metres might extend to the shallower portions of the deep-reefs over the next 50 years, threatening this entire community," he said.

If acidification is caused by CO2 absorbed at the surface shouldn't it be working its way down, not up?

not rated yet Jan 18, 2009
I had a similar thought about the acidification of the oceans. Carbon Dioxide mixed with water produces Carbonic Acid if I remember from my old high school days. So if that were to be the case then Carbon Dioxide absorption into the oceans would decrease that gas from the atmoshphere. Of course is whole world is a Biome type of existance so one thing somehow affects something else.
I also agree with those that are against the foul language being used on the site. Where are the Web Masters here? It is totally uncalled for.
not rated yet Jan 19, 2009
If anyone is personally interested in studying the Great Barrier Reef on a more personal level, try applying for the Best Job Ever. blogs about it here: http://www.tripwo...en/blog/

Good luck! I love this article because 'Blue Planet' is my favorite :)
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 19, 2009
Given that on three recent occasions Australian funded organisations have been found to produce fictitious images and videos, it is likely these pictures and videos are simply 'photoshopped'. I'd wait until these creatures are verified by a reputable organisation before acceptance as fact. More Aussie deception, I reckon.
not rated yet Jan 19, 2009
"I also agree with those that are against the foul language being used on the site. Where are the Web Masters here? It is totally uncalled for."

If you really believe that perhaps you should change the name you use here...
5 / 5 (1) Jan 20, 2009
Just as violence is the last resort of the weaker mind, foul language is the last resort of a person without a better joke. I work construction so I really don't care, but there are many young people that would do well to use this site, and with the rabble spouting off foul unneeded garbage, it cheapens the site and leads parents to ban the kids from learning here.

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