Canadian marine scientists discover quirky creatures
An octopus with ears like an elephant? Scallops that hang like bats? Yup, they're real and they live off the East Coast.
The creatures were found after Canadian marine scientists fitted the coast guard ship Hudson with Canada's most powerful deep-sea diving robot, and sent it to explore water too deep for humans.
"It was looking into areas that we have never gone before. Isn't that how it goes?"asked lead scientist Ellen Kenchington ofthe Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Halifax.
It may sound like something out of Star Trek or a Jules Verne novel, butthe team of 20 marine scientists stayed closer to home, venturing out in the Sable gully marine protected area and other regions off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
The octopus was spotted on the second dive at 2,500 metres. When the robot got close enough, the researchers could see the metre-long octopus had fins near its eyes.
"It looks like Dumbo the elephant," Kenchington said, showing off some ofthe more than 3,000 digital images, hundreds of hours of videos and dozens of live samples taken during the research trip.
It was a creature that had never been seen in the Atlantic before, but Kenchington later found out one had been spotted in the Pacific Ocean.
The robot picked up images of many other creatures, including orange scallops hanging from underwater cliffs, and yellow and pink bubblegum-coloured coral.
"Many of them live to be hundreds, if not up to 1,000 years old, so once they are gone, they may not be replaced," Kenchington said of the coral.
The scientists also saw xenophyophore, a single-cell organism about the size of a grapefruit, along a kilometre stretch of the gully.
Now that these creatures have been spotted, the marine scientists are left with a shipload of questions, such as: What do these sea creatures eat, and what eats them?
The research will help the marine scientists understand the diversity of ocean life, and may provide compounds for medical cures.
Kenchington said the scientistsplan to return to the ocean to look for answers.