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    Thumbs up 'Lost world' of unknown species found on Antarctic sea bed

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    British scientists find 'lost world' of unknown species 8,000 feet down on Antarctic sea bed - kept alive by volcanoes
    British scientists were shocked to discover a 'lost world' hidden in total darkness nearly 8,000 feet (2,400m) deep on the sea floor off the coast of Antarctica.

    They were exploring off the coast of Antarctica and found colonies of marine life including crabs, an octopus and starfish totally new to science, living in the murky depths.

    The reason their existence is remarkable is that they were found on top of undersea volcanoes called hydrothermal vents, which pump out plumes of black smoke causing temperatures to rise to 380C - hot enough to melt lead.


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    Octopus's garden: The team found what they believe is a completely new species of the creature in the ocean's depths.
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    With no sunshine there, they live in complete darkness but the creatures get their energy from breaking down highly toxic chemicals found in the smoke.

    The researchers from Oxford and Southampton universities and the British Antarctic Survey say their existence in such hostile conditions will help understand the origins of life – and whether it could exist on other planets.

    The most numerous of the two dozen new species found is a type of ‘yeti crab’ around 16cm long, which was piled in huge heaps of up to 600 animals near the vents.



    Another of the two dozen new species found was a 16cm-long 'yeti crab', which was piled in huge heaps of up to 600 near the vents.
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    Unlike other crabs it has a dense mat of hair on its chest which it is thought to use to grow bacteria to eat.

    Researchers also discovered an unknown type of octopus they believe is a new species - although they were unable to catch it - and a seven-armed starfish, as well as barnacles, clusters of snails and sea anemones.
    They were detected using a Remotely Operated Vehicle the size of a minibus, of the type used in oil exploration, but customised with a fleet of cameras and equipment to take water and chemical samples.

    The scientists braved the threat of icebergs and huge 16m waves in the Southern Ocean, near Antarctica, to deploy it for eight weeks last year.



    The creatures were found on top of undersea volcanoes called hydrothermal vents, which pump out plumes of black smoke causing temperatures to rise to 380C - hot enough to melt lead
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    Professor Alex Rogers, of the University of Oxford, who led the research said: ‘We found whole communities of organisms, never found before on the planet, thriving in these vents.

    ‘In just eight weeks and it has really changed a lot of what we know about deep sea life in this hostile environment. There are undoubtedly more creatures to find once we have analysed the results of this trip.

    'The crabs were quite spectacular, they were piled up in communities of up to 600. They are very pale coloured and from a distance they looked like a pile of skulls.



    The eight-week mission unearthed many new species using a deep sea rover controlled from a nearby vessel.
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    ‘Hydrothermal vents are very hard to find, but they have changed scientists whole understanding of the origins of life and may hold the key to where else in the solar system it may exist.’

    Although the temperatures are boiling in the immediate vicinity of the vent, they cool down a few hundred metres away from it to around 20C where the sea creatures congregate.

    But Dr Rogers said some of the crabs had severe burn marks from getting too close to the vent.

    Hydrothermal vents were first discovered in 1977 and some have been explored in the Pacific and Indian Oceans but never before in Antarctica, and the creatures found there were different possibly due to the scarcity of food and difficult conditions.

    The results of the study are published in the journal PLoS Biology.





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