More than 100 new species discovered in Chile’s deep sea

An international group of scientists led by Javier Sellanes from the Universidad Católica del Norte (Chile) has discovered more than 100 new species living in seamounts off the coast of Chile. The recent Schmidt Ocean Institute expedition led to the identification of Deep sea corals, glass sponges, sea urchins, amphipods, lobsterss and other species that are probably new to science.

The team explored seamounts along the ridges of Nazca and Salas y Gómezboth within and outside Chile’s jurisdiction to collect data that could support the designation of an international marine protected area on the high seas.

A perching lobster documented on coral at 669 meters depth on the JF2 seamount.  / ROV SuBastian / Schmidt Ocean Institute

A perching lobster documented on coral at 669 meters depth on the JF2 seamount. / ROV SuBastian / Schmidt Ocean Institute

The Salas y Gómez Mountains are a 2,900 kilometer long underwater mountain range that includes: more than 200 seamounts which stretch from the coast of Chile to Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island. In addition, the researchers explored two of Chile’s marine protected areas, the Juan Fernández and Nazca-Desventuradas marine parks.

The Salas y Gómez Mountains are a 2,900-kilometer-long underwater mountain range that includes more than 200 seamounts.

During the expedition a Underwater robots It is capable of diving to a depth of 4,500 meters to collect data from ten mountains, information that will be used to advance Chile’s marine conservation efforts. Each seamount hosted different ecosystems, many of which are at risk, including thriving deep-sea coral reefs and Sponge gardens. In addition, they analyze the physiology and genetics of the presumably unknown specimens to confirm whether they are new species.

The remote-controlled vehicle SuBastain is used at the start of a scientific dive from the research vessel Falkor.  / Alex Ingle / Schmidt Ocean Institute

The remote-controlled vehicle SuBastain is used at the start of a scientific dive from the research vessel Falkor. / Alex Ingle / Schmidt Ocean Institute

Four seamounts found

Experts aboard the ship mapped 52,777 square kilometers of seabed and discovered four seamounts in Chilean waters. The fourth sea mountain, the highest mountain with 3,530 meterswas first explored, mapped and unofficially named Solito by the scientific team.

One always hopes to find new species in these remote and little-explored areas, but the amount we find, particularly in some groups such as sponges, is staggering.

Javier Sellanes from the Catholic University of the North

“We far exceeded our expectations on this expedition. “You always hope to find new species in these remote and little-explored areas, but the amount we have found, especially in some groups like sponges, is staggering,” Sellanes said. “These thriving and healthy ecosystems demonstrate that the Nazca-Desventuradas and Juan Fernández marine parks effectively protect sensitive marine habitats,” he added.

A rarely seen squid (Mastigoteuthis) documented at 1105 meters depth after being inked on Seamount 17 on the Nazca Ridge.  / ROV SuBastian / Schmidt Ocean Institute

A second expedition along the Salas y Gómez Mountains began on February 24 aboard the research vessel Falkor. The underwater dives are broadcast live on the Internet Schmidt Ocean Institute YouTube channel as scientists explore areas deeper than 600 meters for the first time. The Schmidt Ocean Institute will operate in the Southeast Pacific throughout 2024, exploring the waters off Peru and Chile.

Complete species identification can take many years

Yotika Virmani, Executive Director of the Schmidt Ocean Institute

“Full species identification can take many years, and Sellanes and his team have an incredible number of samples from this incredibly beautiful and little-known biodiversity hotspot,” he explains. Jyotika VirmaniManaging Director of the Schmidt Ocean Institute.

The Schmidt Ocean Institute is a partner of the Nippon Foundation – Nekton Ocean Census Program, which aims to Find 100,000 new marine species in the next ten years and “once these new species are identified, they will be part of it,” he concludes.

The ROV SuBastian is recovered on the research vessel Falkor at dusk.  / lex Ingle / Schmidt Ocean Institute

The ROV SuBastian is recovered on the research vessel Falkor at dusk. / lex Ingle / Schmidt Ocean Institute

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