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Scientists discover 8 ‘great’ new sea creatures in Costa Rica

A new species of Xenoturbella was discovered in Costa Rica during a recent expedition.
(Schmidt Ocean Institute/ROV SuBastian)

Scientists on a mission to discover Costa Rican waters made incredible scientific discoveries along the way: the identification of four new species of deep-sea corals, and at least eight other sea creatures.

A group of scientists, including Pennsylvania, the Temple University biology professor Dr. Erik Cordes, who led the trip, the surveyed mountains underwater mountains in the vicinity of Isla del Coco, while on board the research vessel Falkor. The focus of the 3-week of the expedition was to examine the “important corridor” the mountains have to offer, the Schmidt Ocean Institute explains in a recent press release.

“The investigation of these systems at all biological size scales, the team focused on relationships between the species, from microbes to fauna, such as fish and coral,” the non-profit marine research foundation said, adding that it is the first time seven mountains around that location are investigated.

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Thanks to the remote-operated vehicles equipped with cameras, the researchers were able to capture and collect samples of their 19-deep diving. During their trip, the scientists spotted a variety of colourful corals, sponges, starfish, oysters, among other sea animals.

A new species of Osedax, also known as boneworms, found from Costa Rica.
(Greg Rouse/Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD/SOI)

“Every dive that continues to amaze us,” Cordes said in an online statement. “We found species of reef-building stony corals at more than 800 m [2,624 feet] depth on two different mountains. The nearest records of this species are from the deep waters around the Galapagos Islands. The deep sea, the largest habitat on Earth. Understand how that habitat functions will help us to understand how the planet as a whole works.”

Two new species of myzostome worms were found during the Costa Rica trip.
(Greg Rouse/Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD/SOI)

During their adventure, the scientists think they found at least five new animals — a relative of the Biremis worm, three new species of Myzostome worms, three new species of Osedax, and Xenoturbella — though they believe there may be others, pending the DNA test results.

“The genus Biremis was only known that a kind of Biremis blandi, a marine polychaete worm discovered in 1971 in the Bahamas. However, on this recent expedition to Costa Rica, another Biremis was found. If this was found in the Pacific ocean, researchers immediately that it is a new species, and DNA sequencing showed that to be true,” a spokesman for the Schmidt Ocean Institute told Fox News in a statement via e-mail Wednesday, notice they are often referred to as “spaghetti worms.”

Two new species of Myzostome worms were also found. This flat thought worms are “parasitic on echinoderms,” the organization says.

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The Osedax, also known as “boneworms,” earned his nickname by nibbling on the bones of slaughtered whales.

“Osedax have no mouth or teeth, so they secrete acid to bore into the bone. Because Osedax have no stomach, they rely on a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that help process the digestion of proteins and lipids. Osedax unusual root-like structures that absorb nutrients, as well as colorful, feathers, and plumes that act as gills,” says Schmidt Ocean Institute.

“Xenoturbella is a genus of very simple animals with a bilateral symmetry which grows to a few inches long,” the Schmidt Ocean Institute describes.
(Greg Rouse/Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD/SOI)

Another type of Xenoturbella, a genus of a “simple animals with bilateral symmetry,” was also spotted.

“It contains a small number of marine benthic worm-like species. The classification of Xenoturbellas exactly in the right branch of biology is a confounding problem for researchers since its first discovery in 1915,” the Schmidt Ocean Institute says.

Schmidt Ocean Institute co-founder Wendy Schmidt hopes that the research supports the ongoing efforts in Costa Rica.

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“One of the most important things we can do now is understand how these communities work, so if there are changes in the future, we can measure the influence of the man,” she said, adding the group is planning to use their research to advise officials which areas are considered “important habitats” and must be prohibited to fish or other disruptive activities.

Schmidt is of the opinion evidence of these “amazing” species will encourage people to be fighting harder to protect the world of the oceans, including “the deeper areas that are not always the attention that they deserve.”

The genus Biremis was only known that a species – until now.
( Schmidt Ocean Institute/ROV SuBastian)

Even deep under the surface of the ocean — more than 2 miles under, to be more precise — in the Mid-American Trench, Schmidt said that there was evidence of human impact (trash).

“Threats to the deep sea already exist, including the fishing and energy industries that move into deeper water, and the persistent danger of climate change. Seamount habitat hosts rare organisms that are particularly vulnerable and must be protected,” the Schmidt Ocean Institute listed.

Eben Schwartz, marine debris program manager for the California Coastal Commission, previously told Fox News at least “8 million tons of [waste] entering the world’s oceans each year.”

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