Anonim

For millennia they continued to swim undisturbed in remote ocean depths, without anyone suspecting their existence. Until a team of scientists decided to explore the waters near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater mountain range that divides the Atlantic in half, from north to south. It is there that they inhabit marine species without head or brain, primordial creatures with an exceptional spirit of adaptation. The photos were taken as part of the MAR-ECO project, an international research program that is part of the Census of Marine Life, for the cataloging of marine living. Among the promoters of the initiative, the University of Aberdeen, in Scotland.

Devoid of any sense organ, this species of worm belonging to the class of the Enteropneusta could very closely resemble the link between vertebrate animals and invertebrates. Devoid of brains, he still manages to swim in a rudimentary way, and after having fed on the sediments at the bottom of the sea, he leaves behind conspicuous spiraling traces.

Photo courtesy of David Shale

Texts and photographic research: Elisabetta Intini

In the dense darkness of the ocean, the iridescent colors of this member of the polychaeta class certainly do not go unnoticed. Scientists are still questioning why they are so "indiscreet". This and the other creatures have been immortalized thanks to a robotic submarine vehicle guided by the ship RRS James Cook, which for 300 hours probed the waters between 700 and 3, 600 meters deep.

Photo courtesy of David Shale

At a certain depth, 5 arms are no longer enough. This gorgon star (fam. Gorgonocephalidae) even has a forest, and so equipped it can capture even the smallest plankton particles. Photophobic and nocturnal, it is also called basket star, ("star basket", in English) for its habit of closing itself in the basket in the sunlight.

Photo courtesy of David Shale

Usually it moves on the seabed like a snail. So imagine the surprise of biologists when they saw this sea cucumber (Peniagone diaphana) swimming with ease in front of the camera. The little man gets along well even with the mountain, however: thanks to the undoubted swimming qualities, in fact, he manages to venture even on the steep slopes of the submarine reliefs, in this case, of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Photo courtesy of David Shale

According to the researchers, these unusual motor abilities have developed by pure instinct of conservation. Staying on the ground at the ridge, with nothing to feed on nearby, would seriously endanger the life of sea cucumbers (another example in this photo). Experts have scoured both sides of the underwater relief, discovering with amazement that surprisingly different animal and plant species exist a few miles away.

All the funny creatures of the abyss in this photogallery

Photo courtesy of David Shale

Instead of swimming in the middle of the ocean, like all his colleagues would do, this jellyfish (ord. Trachymedusae) stays a few centimeters from the bottom, touching the sand with its tentacles. An unusual behavior according to scientists, who strongly suspect it may be a previously unknown species.

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Photo courtesy of David Shale

Three of these vermons belonging to the Enteropneusta class were collected and taken to laboratories for DNA analysis. The tests will clarify whether or not it is the "missing link" that connects vertebrates and invertebrates. In addition to the one in the photo, a purple specimen (see the first image of the gallery) and a white one (see photo below) will be studied.

Photo courtesy of David Shale

In practice, what you see could look a lot like the first stage of the evolution of all mobile animals, marine or not. This particular specimen was filmed while swimming. The scientists all said they were very surprised by the variety of species found during the exploration. Some said they continued filming new species until just before the end of the mission.

Photo courtesy of David Shale

For 10 years the Census of Marine Life, a global network of researchers from all over the world engaged in cataloging the diversity and distribution of life in the oceans, has been dealing with the study of marine fauna. The MAR-ECO project is one of its final stages, the first report of the ten-year study should be released in 2010. In the photo, another jellyfish photographed during the expedition.

Go also to the photogallery on transparent animals

Photo courtesy of David Shale

"This displacement has revolutionized our preconceptions about underwater life in the Atlantic Ocean, " said Monty Priede, director of the University of Aberdeen's oceanic laboratory. «It shows that we cannot study only the creatures that live at the ends of the oceans ignoring the vastness that lives between the oceanic reliefs. Using new technologies we can reach these regions and make surprising discoveries ". In the photo, a sea cucumber from the Sea cucumber family.

Photo courtesy of David Shale

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Devoid of any sense organ, this species of worm belonging to the class of the Enteropneusta could very closely resemble the link between vertebrate animals and invertebrates. Devoid of brains, he still manages to swim in a rudimentary way, and after having fed on the sediments at the bottom of the sea, he leaves behind conspicuous spiraling traces.
Photo courtesy of David Shale
Texts and photographic research: Elisabetta Intini