Australian and American researchers who were searching the ocean floor of the Tasman Fracture Zone for corals to help them understand climate change, have discovered several deep sea species.
Using a remote device at depths of 4,000 meters the researchers spotted a carnivorous sea squirt previously unknown to humans (pictured above).
One of the CalTech researchers, Jess Adkins, described what it was like to see video images from the remote device about 2.5 miles below them on the ocean floor:
“We were flying–literally flying–over these deep-sea structures that look like English gardens, but are actually filled with all of these carnivorous, Seuss-like creatures that no one else has ever seen.”
Although a sea squirt may appear to be a worm, or other invertebrate, it actually has a spinal chord. So its basic physical structure is that of chordate animals, like birds and humans. However, unlike the other chordates the sea squirt does not have a backbone. Sea squirts have been likened to the Venus Fly Trap plant because they catch their prey in a similar manner and are carnivorous.
The other two species discovered are a barnacle and sea anemone. The anemone was troublesome to the researchers in that it was so common it interfered with their ability to easily find the corals they were looking for because the anemone bears a striking resemblance to them. The chemical structure and age of the corals they collected can provide important clues about ocean temperatures and climate change going back 100,000 years.