Ten astounding marine species of the last decade (2007-2017) | Lifewatch regional portal

You are here

Ten astounding marine species of the last decade (2007-2017)

Ten astounding marine species of the last decade (2007-2017)

 

Deep-sea lyre sponge


[click on image for more information]
 
 
 
Additional photo(s) & video available at:

Chondrocladia lyra Lee, Reiswig, Austin & Lundsten, 2012 

http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=710164 

Chondrocladia lyra, also known as the lyre sponge or harp sponge, is a species of carnivorous deep-sea sponge first discovered off the Californian coast living at depths of 3,300 - 3,500 m by researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). 

This species is a beautiful member of the family Cladorhizidae, where all species are carnivorous. This group of sponges is astonishing in that they no longer look or function like sponges. Typical sponges are suspension feeders, filtering bacteria and microscopic organisms from the surrounding water. C. lyra and other carnivorous sponges, however, capture much larger prey, such as small crustaceans, using their skeletal elements like Velcro. The spicules stick out of the sponge’s surface and hook plankton out of the water. Once the hooks have ensnared the sponge's prey, the sponge engulfs it with mobile cells and digests it.  

C. lyra is known as the lyre or harp sponge because its basic structure resembles a harp or lyre. It is a sessile organism and anchors itself to the soft muds using a root-like structure, which embeds into the sea floor. The vertical branches give C. lyra its harp-like structure and these are covered in Velcro-like hooks and spines, which it uses to snare prey that drift past it in currents. Of the specimens found, the largest recorded is nearly 60 cm in length. 

C. lyra has been found in the northeast Pacific Ocean, off the coast of northern California at the Escanaba Ridge and the Monterey Canyon. It lives in soft abyssal sediment at depths between 3,316 and 3,399 m. They have been seen rooted on the sides of slopes and bottom of the Monterey Canyon, where its prey is funnelled into the narrow crevasses the sponges inhabit. While it has only been observed off northern California, it likely has a much wider latitudinal range.

Further information:
 

 

 

Palauan primitive cave eel

 
[click on image for more information]
 

 

Contact:
  • Dave Johnson (johnsond@si.edu), ichthyologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and lead author of the team's research. 

 

Additional photo(s) and video available at:

Protanguilla palau Johnson, Ida & Sakaue, 2012 

http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=588639 

This exciting discovery was chanced upon in an underwater cave at 35 m depth on the western fringing reef of Ngemelis Island, Republic of Palau, in 2010. The eel is very different from all other living eels, and scientists estimate it must have diverged from others around 200 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era. It is so distinct that in order to classify the new animal, the researchers had to create a new family, genus and species, bestowing on the animal the name Protanguilla palau. This name comes from the Greek 'protos' meaning first, and Latin 'anguilla' for eel; referring to the early divergence of the genus. 

Genetic analysis confirmed that the fish was a 'true' eel - albeit a primitive one. In some features it is more primitive than recent eels, and in others, even more primitive than the oldest known fossil eels, suggesting that it represents a 'living fossil' without a known fossil record. The results suggest this new family has been evolving independently for the last 200 million years, placing their origins in the early Mesozoic era, when dinosaurs were beginning their domination of the planet.  

The eel exhibits many primitive features unknown in the other 19 families and more than 800 species of living eels, resulting in its classification as a new species belonging to a new genus and family. Many of the physical features of this new genus and species of eel, Protanguilla palau, reflect its relationship to the 19 families of Anguilliformes (true eels) currently living. Other, more primitive physical traits, such as a second upper jaw bone (premaxilla) and fewer than 90 vertebrae, have only been found in fossil forms from the Cretaceous period (140 million to 65 million years ago). Still other traits, such as a full set of bony-toothed 'rakers', in the gill arches are a common feature in most bony fishes, but are lacking in both fossil and living eels. The team's DNA analyses indicate that P. palau represents an ancient, independent lineage with an evolutionary history comparable to that of the entire order of living and fossil eel species.  

"The equivalent of this primitive eel, in fishes, has perhaps not been seen since the discovery of the coelacanth in the late 1930s," said Dave Johnson, ichthyologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and lead author of the team's research. "We believe that such a long, independent evolutionary history, dating back to the early Mesozoic (about 200 million years ago), retention of several primitive anatomical features and apparently restricted distribution, warrant its recognition as a living fossil."  

"The discovery of this extraordinary and beautiful new species of eel underscores how much more there is to learn about our planet," Johnson said. "Furthermore, it brings home the critical importance of future conservation efforts; currently this species is known from only 10 specimens collected from a single cave in Palau." 

Further information
 
 
 
 
 

Deep-sea acochlidiacean slug


[click on image for more information]

Contacts:
  • Philippe Bouchet (pbouchet@mnhn.fr), Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris; Principal Investigator of the expedition that discovered the new species.
  • Ellen Strong (stronge@si.edu), National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; scientist on board the research vessel that discovered the new species.

 

Additional photo(s) and video available at:

Bathyhedyle boucheti Neusser, Jörger, Lodde-Bensch, Strong & Schrödl, 2016 

http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=890430 

Two specimens of this slug were trawled off Mozambique in 2009 on the Spanish Institute of Oceanography's R.V. Vizconde de Eza, at depths of 261-264 m and 437-445 m. These two specimens had all the external characteristics of an acochlidiacean slug, but it struck the researchers on board that it was from distinctly deeper water than acochlidiaceans previously known - all from shallow subtidal to a maximum of 50 meters - and was also remarkably large - although a mere 10 mm - for this group of otherwise microscopic slugs. Because their importance was immediately understood, one specimen was preserved in ethanol for DNA sequencing, and the other one was preserved in glutaraldehyde for microanatomical sectioning, which was carried out in Münich and resulted in a detailed computer-based 3D reconstruction of all major organ systems. 

Morphological and molecular results confirmed that this slug represented not only a new genus and species, but even a new family of acochlidiacean slug. The genus has been named Bathyhedyle, coined from the Greek bathus, meaning ‘deep’ and Hedyle, the first genus of the Acochlidiida.

Information about the food sources of Acochlidiida is patchy, but the authors speculate that Bathyhedyle boucheti feeds on the egg masses of other gastropods. 

 
Further information
  • Neusser TP, Jörger KM, Lodde-Bensch E, Strong EE & Schrödl M (2016). The unique deep sea—land connection: interactive 3D visualization and molecular phylogeny of Bathyhedyle boucheti n. sp. (Bathyhedylidae n. fam.)—the first panpulmonate slug from bathyal zones. PeerJ 4:e2738; DOI 10.7717/peerj.2738.

 

Tree syllid worm


[click on image for more information]
 
Contact:
 
Additional photo(s) and video available at:

Ramisyllis multicaudata Glasby, Schroeder & Aguado, 2012 

http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=596208 

Plants branch, it is fundamental to how they live, but aren’t branching animals only imaginary, as in the story of the multi-headed Hydra slain by Heracles? That was the common belief until an unusual worm was discovered in tropical northern Australia. Ramisyllis multicaudata is a syllid polychaete worm, which lives in strict symbiosis within shallow water marine sponges. Behind the single head of the worm a remarkable branching tree-like body develops. Each branch occupies a branch of the canal system within their sponge host, and continues to grow larger and produce new branches. The posterior ends emerge from the sponge openings, actively scouring the sponge surface. Why they do this is unknown.  

Each sponge usually houses just one worm, which is either a female or a male. Eventually sexual units full of gametes develop at the end of the terminal branches, detach from the terminal branches and swim out of the sponge through its canals and pores. These male and female units (called stolons) have heads with large eyes, and special swimming chaetae. 

Some specimens have been found with more than 500 ramifications and each terminal branch may have as many as 120 segments, while interbranch sections may range from 3 to 30 segments. If the branches were joined end-to-end the final length could exceed those of the longest known worms. Molecular studies have suggested that Ramisyllis is allied to a group of flattened (unbranched) syllid polychaetes.

The discovery of Ramisyllis multicaudata in 2012 has stimulated many lines of research both within and outside of the field of systematics. Ramisyllis multicaudata lives in shallow water and is easily collected, but a deepsea branching syllid was discovered by the 19th Century Challenger Expedition and later dubbed Syllis ramosa. It is rare and not thought closely related, so possibly branching has developed twice in the evolution of syllids. The species name is derived from the Latin, 'multus' for 'many', and 'caudata', for 'tailed'.

Further information

 

Starry sea wanderer jelly


[click on image for more information]

Contact:

Marivagia stellata Galil & Gershwin, 2010 

http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=766645

Marivagia stellata is a beautiful jellyfish species and its description from the eastern Mediterranean Sea in 2010 highlights several important marine conservation issues. These include the increasing 'jellification' of our seas; problems of invasive marine species; the introduction and spread of tropical species into warm-temperate seas stemming from sea surface temperature rises; and the massive introduction of marine species into the Mediterranean Sea through the Suez Canal. See also the newly instituted World Register of Introduced Marine Species.

Marivagia stellata was described as a new genus and species to science after collections of specimens were made from its introduced range in the south eastern Mediterranean Sea. The genus name is derived from the Latin ‘mari’, meaning ‘sea’, and ‘vagus’ meaning ‘wanderer’;  the species name, ‘stella’ meaning ‘star’, for the dots and star-burst pattern on the exumbrella.

The species has since been recorded from the Arabian Sea (India and Pakistan). It is highly probable that it was introduced through the Suez Canal, as have more than half of the non-native species recorded in the Mediterranean Sea. The Starry Sea Wanderer has since established a population along the South Eastern Levant Sea and its clusters appear each summer.

Further information: 
  • Galil, B.S.; Gershwin, L.A.; Douek, J.; Rinkevich, B. (2010). Marivagia stellata gen. et sp. nov. (Scyphozoa: Rhizostomeae: Cepheidae), another alien jellyfish from the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Aquatic Invasions 5: 331–340. doi: 10.3391/ai.2010.5.4.01

 

The 'Hoff' crab


[click on image for more information]

Contact:

 

Additional photo(s) and video available at:

Kiwa tyleri Thatje, 2015 

http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=850310 

The ‘Hoff’ crab is a species of deep-sea squat lobster in the family Kiwaidae, which lives on hydrothermal vents near Antarctica. The crustacean was given its nickname in 2010 by UK deep-sea scientists aboard the RRS James Cook, owing to resemblance between its dense covering of setae on the ventral surface of the exoskeleton and the hairy chest of the actor David Hasselhoff. The scientific name honours the renowned British polar and deep-sea biologist Paul Tyler from the University of Southampton. The 2010 expedition to explore hydrothermal vents on the East Scotia Ridge was the second of three expeditions to the Southern Ocean by the UK-led research consortium, ChEsSo (Chemosynthetic Ecosystems of the Southern Ocean). 

This species – the only member of its genus found outside the Pacific Ocean- is known from two hydrothermal vent sites in the East Scotia Ridge of the South Atlantic Ocean at about 2,394 m and 2,608 m depth. The crabs were found living in close proximity to fluid emanating from the chimneys at temperatures greater than of 350 °C, and densities of the crabs were observed in excess of 600 per square metre.  

Unlike the related species, Kiwa hirsuta and Kiwa puravida, which are notable for having a dense covering of setae on their elongated chelae, this species has shorter chelae, with most of the setae concentrated instead on the ventral surface of the crab.

Filamentous bacteria were found on the setae and similar-looking sulphur-oxidising bacteria have been found amongst the setae of other Kiwa species. It has been hypothesised that these sulphur-oxidising bacteria, which fix carbon from the water by oxidising sulphides in the hydrothermal fluid, are a significant source of nutrition to the crabs.

Further information
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Squidworm

 
[click on image for more information]

Contact:

 

Additional photo(s) and video available at:

Teuthidodrilus samae Osborn, Madin & Rouse, 2011 

http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=556107 

That some usually secretive crawling polychaete annelids on occasion like to swim in the open sea is long known by marine biologists, but probably this is an unexpected ability in the view of most people. However, the new era of deepsea ROVs with real time video recording has led to the discovery of new pelagic polychaete forms with a lifestyle and body adaptation for swimming in the waters just above the sea bottom and intermittently settling to feed. The squidworm, a member of the usually benthic burrowing Acrocirridae, is one such now being seen more often, including in livestreaming video. It was first found in the Celebes Sea, a deep basin between the Philippines and Indonesia. 

The name comes from the impression given by this animal, when seen underwater, of being a chimera of squid (10 elongate, arm-like appendages) and worm. The Greek roots of 'teuthid' ('squid') and 'drilos' ('worm') are combined.

Further information

 

Jesse Ausubel's 'terrible claw' lobster


[click on image for more information]
 
Contacts:
  • Shane Ahyong (Shane.Ahyong@austmus.gov.au), The Australian Museum, Sydney. First author of the description of the new species.
  • Philippe Bouchet (pbouchet@mnhn.fr), Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris; Principal Investigator of the expedition that discovered the new species.
  • Tin-Yam Chan, National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung; crustacean specialist who collected the only specimen known

Dinochelus ausubeli Ahyong, Chan & Bouchet, 2010 

http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=531112 

Although the Philippines are celebrated as a center of marine biodiversity, the explorations of their deep water fauna had fallen in backwater after the expeditions carried out in 1907-1910 by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries research vessel Albatross and in the 1970s-80s by the French research vessels Vauban and Coriolis. Both endeavours generated descriptions of numerous new species of fish and invertebrates, but many parts of the Philippines, especially the Pacific seaboard, had never been surveyed for their off-shore benthic fauna. In 2007, as part of the the Census of Marine Life, the AURORA 2007 expedition was conducted on board MV DA-BFAR, the research vessel of the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Between May 20 and June 4, 2007, 111 hauls were conducted at depths between 100 and 2300 m., off the provinces of Quezon and Aurora in east Luzon. 

A single specimen of this extraordinary, blind, small deep-water lobster, with a carapace length of about 30 mm, was trawled at a depth of 250 meters. It belongs in the family Nephropidae, which includes the otherwise familiar (and commercially important) European mud lobster Nephrops norvegicus. This was one of the iconic discoveries of the decade long Census of Marine Life (2000-2010), and was named after Jesse Ausubel, the programme officer and patron of the Census and Marine Barcoding of Life initiatives.  

The name of the genus is based on the Greek words 'dinos', meaning 'terrible, fearful' (as in "dinosaur"), and 'chela', meaning 'claw', alluding to the massive, spinose major claw of the new genus. 

Further information:

 

The 'living fossil' octocoral


[click on image for more information]

Contact:

 

Additional photo(s) available at:

Nanipora kamurai Miyazaki & Reimer, 2015 

http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=850462 

Research conducted in 2015 in Okinawa, Japan, by graduate student Yu Miyazaki and associate professor James Davis Reimer from the University of the Ryukyus found a very unusual species of octocoral from a public swimming area on a shallow coral reef in Okinawa, Japan. This octocoral species can be considered a 'living fossil', and is related in many ways to the unusual blue coral. 

Unlike scleractinians, most octocorals lack a hard skeleton, and therefore many have the common name 'soft coral'. One exception is the endangered genus Heliopora, known as blue coral, which is found in tropical locations in the Pacific Ocean. Blue coral forms a massive skeleton of aragonite calcium-carbonate. Due to this unique feature, blue corals have long been placed within their own special order inside the octocorals. 

This new species, named Nanipora kamurai, also has an aragonite calcium-carbonate skeleton, and molecular analyses show the two groups are most closely related to each other among all octocorals. As fossils show that blue coral and their relatives were globally distributed during the Cretaceous period, Heliopora and this new species can be considered ‘living fossils’. 

In the past, another octocoral species with an aragonite skeleton, Epiphaxum, was discovered in 1977. Since 1977, several recent and fossil Epiphaxum specimens from the deep sea have been recorded. Although this new species seems to be morphologically close to Epiphaxum, it is classified in a separate genus inside the same family (Lithotelestidae) due to many structural differences. 

Perhaps most surprisingly, Nanipora kamurai was found from a public swimming area on a very shallow coral reef of <1 m depth. “Most living fossils from the ocean seem to come from deeper, more stable environments” stated Miyazaki, “suggesting that there are important discoveries on coral reefs even in shallow areas still awaiting us.”  

"The diverse and pristine reefs of Zamami Island, which was recently included in a new national park, need to be investigated even more", he added. 

The discovery of Nanipora kamurai, undoubtedly will give new insight on octocoral taxonomy. Since its initial discovery in Okinawa, additional populations have been reported from the South China Sea and Thailand that are much larger than the small population consisting of only 8 colonies on Zamami Island.

Further information:
  • Miyazaki Y, Reimer JD (2015) A new genus and species of octocoral with aragonite calcium-carbonate skeleton (Octocorallia, Helioporacea) from Okinawa, Japan. ZooKeys 511: 1-23. doi:10.3897/zookeys.511.9432 

 

Scaly-foot snail

[click on image for more information]

Contacts:

Chrysomallon squamiferum Chen, Linse, Copley & Rogers, 2015 

http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=736932 

Deep beneath the ocean surface, where no sunlight can penetrate, there are areas so hot, volatile and toxic that it is hard to believe life can exist...but it does, and often in abundance. The spectacular marine snail, known as the 'scaly-foot snail' lives in this kind of hostile environment. It is found at depths around 2785m, living on the edge of hydrothermal vents and black smokers that reach temperatures of 300-400°C. This is certainly not your average snail... 

It was in 2000 that the first hydrothermal vent field was discovered in the Indian Ocean, known as Kairei field, and a year on that Woods Hole surveyed the area in the RV Knorr 162-13 and encountered this new species. It was immediately obvious that something unique had been discovered. The 'foot' of this snail, which is the fleshy soft part that snails move around on, displayed hundreds of hardened tags, almost like an armour. These tags are called sclerites; fleshy in the centre and hard on the exterior due to a layer of conchiolin (a protein secreted as a part of shell formation) covered by a layer of iron sulphide that gives it a black metallic appearance. The iron sulphide exists in two forms in the snail: greigite, which is highly magnetic, and pyrite, which is commonly known as fool's gold. The presence of the metallic sclerites is not totally understood but researchers at the Extremobiosphere Research Center in Japan suggest the snail may control the mineralization of the iron sulphides for protection from crab predation or perhaps for detoxification purposes. 

The scaly-foot gastropod was officially christened Chrysomallon squamiferum by Chong Chen and his associates in 2015. This snail is so different to any others known that Chen et al. needed to describe a new genus to put this new species in. The genus name 'Chrysomallon' means 'golden fleece', giving reference to the metallic coating often containing fool's gold. The species name 'squamiferum' means 'scale-bearing', making obvious reference to the sclerites covering the foot of the snail. The two specimens donated to the National Museum of Wales form part of the  incredibly important 'type' series and even came with a note ensuring they were stored in 100% alcohol as any water in the preservative would cause them to rust over time!

Further information