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‘Mind-blowing’ deep sea expedition uncovers a gigantic underwater mountain and more than 100 new species

A recent deep-sea expedition off the coast of Chile led to an incredible discovery: over 100 potentially new marine species and several massive underwater mountains. Researchers aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor embarked on this expedition to explore seamounts in the Nazca and Salas y Gómez ridges, as well as marine parks like Juan Fernández and Nazca-Desventuradas.

During the expedition, the team stumbled upon four previously unknown solitary seamounts. The largest of these, named Solito, stands over 11,500 feet tall above the seafloor. Using an underwater robot, researchers delved into the slopes of these seamounts and encountered a diverse range of marine life, including corals, sponges, sea urchins, mollusks, and crustaceans. Many of these species are believed to be new to science.

Javier Sellanes, the lead scientist on the expedition, expressed amazement at the abundance of new species found, particularly among sponges. The researchers collected samples of these creatures for further analysis to confirm their status as newfound species, a process that could take years due to the sheer number of samples.

Of particular concern is the vulnerability of these species’ habitats, such as cold-water corals and sponge gardens, to human activities like trawling and deep-sea mining. While species within certain marine parks are legally protected, those in other areas remain at risk.

This expedition builds upon previous efforts by the Schmidt Ocean Institute to map seamounts in the southeast Pacific, highlighting the importance of these towering underwater features as biodiversity hotspots. As researchers continue to explore and study these regions, they hope to advance our understanding of marine life and contribute to conservation efforts to protect these unique ecosystems.

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