ABERDEEN, Scotland, July 7 (UPI) — Deep-sea mountain ridges and abysses teem with marine life, forcing scientists to change their view about life way below the surface, a Scottish scientist said.
An international team of marine scientists also saw an abundance of species once considered rare and found diversity in habitat and marine life in locations a few miles apart as they studied animals living the mid-Atlantic Ocean ridge, the Census of Marine Life said Tuesday in a release.
The six-week exploration is part of the Census of Marine Life, a global network of researchers engaged in a 10-year scientific initiative to assess and explain the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the oceans and will publish its first enumeration this year in London.
During more than 300 hours of dives with a remotely operated vehicle, researchers surveyed plains, cliffs and slopes of the mountain range bisecting the Atlantic.
“We were surprised at how different the animals were on either side of the ridge which is just tens of miles apart,” said Monty Priede, director of the University of Aberdeen’s Oceanlab. “The terrain looked the same, mirror images of each other, but that is where the similarity ended.”
On one side, sea urchins dominated the plains and the cliffs were alive with sponges, corals and other life, Priede said, while the other side was dull, bare rock with much less sea life.
Scientists said they also observed and captured a species believed to be close to the missing evolutionary link between back-boned and invertebrate animals.
Priede said the expedition “revolutionized our thinking about deep-sea life in the Atlantic Ocean. It shows that we cannot just study what lives around the edges of the ocean and ignore the vast array of animals living on the slopes and valleys in the middle of the ocean.”
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