British scientists have discovered what they claim is a “lost world” of unknown species nearly 8,000 feet deep on the sea floor off the coast of Antarctica — kept alive by undersea volcanoes.
A team from Oxford and Southampton universities and the British Antarctic Survey was exploring off the coast of Antarctica and found colonies of marine life, including crabs, an octopus and starfish very new to science, living in the murky depths.
The reason their existence is remarkable is that they were found on top of undersea volcanoes called hydrothermal vents, which pump out plumes of black smoke causing temperatures to rise to 380 degrees C — hot enough to melt lead.
With no sunshine there, they live in complete darkness but the creatures get their energy from breaking down highly toxic chemicals found in the smoke, the Daily Mail reported.
The most numerous of the two dozen new species found is a type of “yeti crab” around 16cm long, which was piled in huge heaps of up to 600 animals near the vents. Unlike other crabs it has a dense mat of hair on its chest which it is thought to use to grow bacteria to eat. For the first time researchers, using a Remotely Operated Vehicle, have been able to explore the East Scotia Ridge deep beneath the Southern Ocean. “Hydrothermal vents are home to animals found nowhere else on the planet that get their energy from breaking down chemicals,” said Professor Alex Rogers of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, who led the research.