South of Tasmania, hundreds of undersea mountains mark the deep ocean floor. Now, a monthlong survey of these seamounts in and around Australia’s Huon and Tasman Fracture marine parks has revealed a spectacular range of deep-sea species, from feathery corals and tulip-shaped glass sponges to bioluminescent squids and ghost sharks. The survey team has also uncovered more than 100 previously unnamed species that are likely new to science.
The seamounts within the marine parks occur at depths of 700 to 1,500 meters (2,300 to 4,900 feet). These mountains are home to cold-water corals that are slow-growing, fragile and threatened by fishing, deep-sea mining and climate change-induced variations in sea temperature and acidity. But accessing these harsh, dark, high-pressure depths is extremely hard. So scientists and park managers went aboard the Investigator, a research ship that’s part of Australia’s Marine National Facility, and used a special camera system designed by staff at the Australian government’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) to see what lies thousands of feet beneath the ocean’s surface.
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