Underwater Mountains Serve Up Dozens of New Species

On this expedition in the South Pacific, at least 50 new ones emerged
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2024 11:30 AM CDT
On One Expedition, at Least 50 New Species Emerge
A Chrysogorgia coral and squat lobster are spotted along the northern flank of Motu Motiro Hiva, an uninhabited island along the Salas y Gomez Ridge.   (ROV SuBastian/Schmidt Ocean Institute under CC BY-NC-SA)

Over 40 days exploring an 1,800-mile underwater mountain chain extending from Chile to Easter Island, an international team of scientists discovered an entirely unknown species once a day on average. The team led by Erin Easton of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and Javier Sellanes of Chile's Catholic University of the North uncovered at least 50 species believed to be unknown to science inhabiting the Salas y Gomez Ridge in the South Pacific. "We have found between 50 and 60 potentially new species at first sight, a number that is likely to increase as we have many samples to work on in the laboratory," says researcher Ariadna Mecho, per Newsweek.

The new species come on top of the reporting of 160 known species previously unseen in this area, per Quartz. "One of the species found was a wrinkle coral, which set a new record for the deepest-ever photosynthesis-dependent animal in the world," Newsweek reports. The discovery extends "the distribution of this Polynesian fauna by several hundred kilometers," Mecho says. The ridge, a chain of 110 seamounts, provides habitat for bottom-dwelling creatures, like sponges and corals, and also serves as a pathway for migrating animals such as whales, sharks, sea turtles,and swordfish. Because they hadn't made enough discoveries, the team also documented six previously unreported seamounts during the Schmidt Ocean Institute expedition from Feb. 24 to April 4.

In a statement, Easton describes "distinct ecosystems on individual seamounts," adding that "we hope the data collected from this expedition will help establish new marine protected areas, including on the high seas on the Salas y Gomez Ridge." The expedition followed shortly after another, also led by Sellanes, of the nearby Nazca and Juan Fernandez ridges, where more than 100 suspected new species were discovered. "The astonishing habitats and animal communities that we have unveiled during these two expeditions constitute a dramatic example of how little we know about this remote area," Sellanes says. (More discoveries stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.