THOUSANDS of new species – including an eyeless shrimp with a light-seeking organ on its back – have been discovered three miles (5km) down living in superheated 450C water.
The weird crustacea, which somehow survive at the same temperature metal reaches during welding, were found by a British team researching 'black smokers' on the Caribbean seafloor.
The undersea hot springs, which lie 0.8 kilometres deeper than any seen before, shoot jets of mineral-laden water more than a kilometre into the ocean above. But these same springs are teeming with thousands of a new species of shrimp
The team led by marine geochemist Dr Doug Connelly at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK, and marine biologist Dr Jon Copley of the University of Southampton used the National Oceanography Centre's robot submarine called Autosub6000 and a deep-diving vehicle, HyBIS, manufactured by the British firm, Hydro-Lek to locate and study the vents at a depth of five kilometres in the Cayman Trough, an undersea trench south of the Cayman Islands. Researchers found a new species of pale shrimp congregating in hordes (up to 2,000 shrimp per m2) around the six-metre tall mineral spires of the vents. Lacking normal eyes, the shrimps instead have a light-sensing organ on their backs, which may help them to navigate in the faint glow of deep-sea vents. The researchers have named the shrimp Rimicaris hybisae, after the deep-sea vehicle that they used to collect them. The Cayman shrimp is related to a species called Rimicaris exoculata, found at other deep-sea vents 4,000 kilometres away on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Elsewhere at the Beebe Vent Field, the team saw hundreds of white-tentacled anemones lining cracks where warm water seeps from the sea bed.
Dr Copley sadi: “Studying the creatures at these vents, and comparing them with species at other vents around the world; will help us to understand how animals disperse and evolve in the deep ocean.”