Scientists from the Charles Darwin Foundation, along with the Galapagos National Park Directorate, the Ocean Exploration Trust and an international team of deep-sea experts have discovered 30 deep sea creatures in the Galapagos Archipelago.
The new species found in ocean include four Squat lobsters, 10 Bamboo corals, four octocorals, one Brittle star and 11 sponges, according to a press release by the Charles Darwin Foundation.
Research was gathered during a 10-day cruise on a research vessel that specializes in deep-sea exploration. Specimens were collected using special equipment and sent to experts for identification.
“The many discoveries made on this expedition showcase the importance of deep-sea exploration to develop an understanding of our oceans and the power of telepresence to build a diverse team of experts,” said Dr. Nicole Raineault, Chief Scientist of the Ocean Exploration Trust.
Results from the expedition have been published in the journal “Scientific Reports.”
The Galapagos National Park was established in July 1959 in honor of the 100th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s book “The Origin of Species.” Darwin’s famous theory of evolution was based on observations he made during his stays.
Today, the National Park covers 97% of the land and is considered a “living laboratory.” In fact, a large number of animals and plants found in the Galapagos do not exist anywhere else in the world and only five islands have any human settlement.
“These dives revealed some of the most unusual deep-sea octocorals we have seen. These new species found in ocean will contribute to establishing the uniqueness of the deep-sea fauna in the Tropical Eastern Pacific,” said Dr. Les Watling from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Senior Marine Scientist at the Charles Darwin Foundation and conservation scientist at the National Geographic Pristine Seas project, Dr. Pelayo Salinas de Leon, also expressed that the discoveries are “very exciting and the result of the combined hard work.”
“The deep sea remains as earth’s last frontier and this study provides a sneak-peak into the least known communities of the Galapagos Islands,” he said. “Now it is our responsibility to make sure they remain pristine for the generations to come.”
The photo above is a Squat lobster. Research done by Walla Walla University shows that Squat lobsters feed on the bottom of the ocean, where they’ll find waste, dead animals, plankton and shrimp. The active swimmers also like to hide from predators in hard-to-reach places.
In a study done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it was found that these mysterious, tree branch-like organisms may be an important sign of long-term climate change.
These deep sea creatures organisms have a complex life cycle including a phase when they are considered plankton.
Closely related to starfish, Brittle stars crawl across the sea floor using their five flexible arms that can reach up to 60 centimeters in length. Read more about them in the Biodiversity Library.
Sponges are organisms that are full of holes and channels that allow water to circulate through them. This allows them to get food and oxygen, and to also remove waste.
The Galapagos Islands may seem too far out into the eastern Pacific for our daily at-home habits to add to its pollution. But, ocean protection and conservation start at home.
Ocean Blue Project works with hundreds of small groups to clean up neighborhoods, rivers and beaches, and is organized around four main programs:
Microplastics Recovery — removal of plastics and other debris from beaches in partnership with university researchers and upcycling manufacturers. Save a turtle with Ocean Blue.
Create a Cleanup —empowering individuals, schools and businesses to develop local cleanup events around the United States.
Blue Streams & Rivers — Preventing ocean pollution through riparian ecosystem enhancement projects that allow local flora and fauna to thrive while addressing pollution at its source, our urban streams and rivers.
Blue Schools — grade-school curriculum to help students become stewards of their local watershed integrating urban stream/river restoration by River Restoration Projects, planting native trees and vegetation.
To create or join a beach cleanup near you, click here. If unable to take part in a cleanup, you can still become an annual grassroots member or create a fundraiser through OBP’s Facebook page.
Raegan Scharfetter is a journalist based out of Dallas-Fort Worth with a passion for wildlife and environmental science.