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Bone-eating critters among new underwater discoveries

Ten years ago, 95 per cent of Earth’s oceans remained unexplored. Now,experts are unveiling an unprecedented inventory of ocean life.

Ten years ago, 95 per cent of Earth’s oceans remained unexplored. Now, experts are unveiling an unprecedented inventory of ocean life.


First, meet the Yeti Crab. It has hairy claws and reproduces its own bacteria, and is one of more than 5,300 new species discovered by the Census of Marine Life. Some 2,000 researchers from 80 countries set out to document every species in our oceans. “We knew that there were unknown species in the oceans, but we didn’t know if it was one, 10 or 100 million species,” says Dr. David Billett from Britain’s National Oceanography Center.


“Off the British coasts, only an estimated 10 per cent of species are unknown. But off the coasts of countries like Angola, the figure is 90 per cent.”


Experts found almost 200 new crabs, shrimps and prawns. “Rainforests have a reputation for biodiversity, but most of the species are insects,” explains Prof. Paul Tyler, a marine scientist from Southampton University. “By contrast, there’s an extremely wide range of animals in the ocean.”


Billett discovered new sea cucumbers, a common marine animal in the Indian ocean. “The deep waters aren’t dull places where nothing happens.”


The most charming discovery may be the osedax, discovered by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California.


This seabed creature looks like a wig with pink twigs sprouting out. But the osedax’s diet proves to be less enchanting: it feeds on whale bones.

 
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