Author Topic: Monsters from beneath the Bermuda Triangle  (Read 2186 times)


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Monsters from beneath the Bermuda Triangle
« on: May 12, 2006, 02:23:01 AM »

In the permanently dark waters beneath the Bermuda Triangle, scientists have uncovered a remarkably diverse range of extraordinary sea creatures.

Many of the new species could shed light on the state of the world's oceans.

Retrieving tiny sea animals - zooplankton - at depths of up to three miles, and even reading their genetic codes on a rolling sea, scientists carrying out a census of marine life have revealed new details about the role of these fragile creatures in the climate and food chain, from fish to whales.

Among the thousands captured, 500 species have been catalogued and 220 of them have had their DNA sequences analysed on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship Ronald H Brown to reveal up to 20 new species.

"We are charting the plankton in the sea like astronomers chart the stars in the sky," said the cruise's scientific leader, Dr Peter Wiebe, the senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, America.

"With the zooplankton chart, we can assess what changes - man-made and natural - are taking place in the largest habitat on Earth."

The 20-day cruise, which ended on April 30, is part of an ambitious global inventory of all species of zooplankton, which is expected to double from the current number of 7,000 by 2010.

The Census of Marine Life initiative will shed light on some important global ecosystem processes, including the impact that ocean acidification may have on sea life.

The oceans soak up a lot of carbon from the atmosphere as zooplankton migrate up and down the water column.

By one rough estimate, 10,000lb of phytoplankton is needed to feed 1,000lb of small zooplankton, which in turn support 100lb of larger zooplankton, which support 10lb of small fish species (such as herring or anchovies), which support 1lb of a larger fish species.

"Among more than 1,000 individual organisms identified at sea, our team of marine experts found what appear to be several species that may well prove new to science," says Dr Wiebe.

The plankton captured include hundreds of species of the tiny shrimp-like animals, called copepods, that sustain commercial fish stocks throughout the world.

The team also studied 24 of the 48 species of all known pteropods, or swimming snails.

The expedition yielded new understanding of the diversity of gelatinous plankton, usually destroyed by nets.

Also captured were more than 120 fish species, including rare male anglerfishes, which use their jaws and teeth to attach themselves, like parasites, to the much larger females.

They also found possible new species of black dragonfish, and what may be a new fish known as "the great swallower".
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