Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Species Of Sea Anemone Found In Deepest Pacific

Date:
May 18, 2007
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
Researchers cruising for creatures that live in the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean found a new species of sea anemone living in the unlikeliest of habitats -- the carcass of a dead whale. A marine biologist would say that discovering a new sea anemone isn't so unusual. But finding one that calls a dead whale home is what sets this new creature apart.

Found deep in the Pacific Ocean , these newly discovered sea anemones may help researchers to better understand how humans drive global-scale ecological change.
Credit: Kevin Fitzsimons, University Relations, Ohio State University

Researchers cruising for creatures that live in the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean found a new species of sea anemone living in the unlikeliest of habitats – the carcass of a dead whale.

A marine biologist would say that discovering a new sea anemone isn't so unusual. But finding one that calls a dead whale home is what sets this new creature apart.

Since the scientists who initially found these animals weren't sea anemone specialists, they sent the 10 specimens they collected to Meg Daly, an assistant professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University . Daly runs one of the very few laboratories in the world equipped to study sea anemones.

“These creatures were so cool simply because we knew that no sea anemone had ever been found on a whale fall,” she said.

Once a whale dies, its carcass sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Scientists call this a “whale fall.” The anemones that Daly received once lived on the bones of a dead whale some 1.8 miles (3,000 meters) below sea level in a region of the Pacific Ocean called Monterey Canyon, roughly 25 miles off the coast of Monterey, Calif. All of the specimens currently in Daly's collection came from this whale fall.

The anemone, given the scientific name Anthosactis pearseae – there is no English name for it – is small and white and roughly cube-shaped. It's about the size of a human molar, and even looks like a tooth with small tentacles on one side.

Daly and Luciana Gusmão, a doctoral student in Daly's laboratory, describe A. pearseae in detail in a recent issue of the Journal of Natural History. The two assigned the anemone to the genus Anthosactis primarily due to the roughly uniform length of A. pearseae's tentacles – a characteristic common to this group of about seven sea anemones.

“We tend to differentiate Anthosactis species from other groups of sea anemones by a variety of traits, rather than any one unique attribute,” Daly said.

She and Gusmão named A. pearseae after Vicki Pearse, the naturalist who first collected the specimens during a cruise of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's research vessel the Western Flyer. Pearse is a research associate at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Santa Cruz.

It's customary to name a newly discovered plant or animal species after the person who found it, or after the place where it was discovered.

Collecting deep-sea creatures is a tedious process that involves a lot of high-tech equipment like underwater video cameras attached to remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). Deep sea ROVs are also equipped with robotic arms and suction devices that are used to collect species.

“It's like a submarine that's manned from the surface,” said Daly, who plans to head to Monterey Canyon later this year in hopes of finding more dead whales with A. pearseae roosting on the bones. A successful trip could answer some of Daly's lingering questions about the species itself and, more broadly, may provide clues on how human activities affect this unique, seemingly removed ecosystem.

“The thing about these communities is that they seem so ephemeral and so unplanned,” Daly said. “A whale dies where it dies, and its carcass lands wherever. But these are actually some of the most stable deep sea communities.

“A better understanding of deep-sea populations may shed light on how humans drive ecological change, whether it's through whaling or global climate change,” she said, and also pointed out that there are now far fewer major whale migrations along the California coast.

While the flesh of a dead whale decomposes within weeks, the bones can last anywhere from 60 to 100 years.

“As that happens, the bacteria that break down the bones release sulfur,” Daly said. “A whole community of aquatic creatures uses that sulfur to make energy, much like plants convert light into energy.”

Daly doesn't know much about A. pearseae beyond its physical description. She and Gusmão aren't sure how old the creatures are, and say that sea anemones can live for hundreds of years. Nor are they sure how A. pearseae reproduce (each anemone may have male and female sex organs), or if it lives exclusively on whale carcasses.

“So far, a single dead whale is the only place where we've found these anemones,” Daly said.

She and Gusmão plan to include A. pearseae in a long-term evolutionary study of genetic relationships among sea anemones. A. pearseae belongs to an extremely diverse group of anemones, Daly said, and comparing the anemones' genetic sequences may clue the researchers in to how the different species evolved over time.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "New Species Of Sea Anemone Found In Deepest Pacific." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 May 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070516144513.htm>.
Ohio State University. (2007, May 18). New Species Of Sea Anemone Found In Deepest Pacific. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070516144513.htm
Ohio State University. "New Species Of Sea Anemone Found In Deepest Pacific." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070516144513.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The incentive is in keeping with a Russian superstition that it's good luck for a cat to be the first to cross the threshold of a new home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) — Tourists in Palau clamour to dive with sharks thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative -- as the island nation plans to completely ban commercial fishing in its vast ocean territory. 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins