from the admiral-ackbar dept.
In the Gulf of Mexico, a strange creature lurks in the deep: a blood-red squid with stubby arms, missing tentacles, and a knack for swimming like a nautilus.
The unusual squid, which might or might not be a new species, was filmed on April 17 by the crew of the Okeanos Explorer, a research vessel run by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Charged with exploring Earth's largely unknown deep waters, the Okeanos Explorer has captured extraordinary footage over the years. Previous expeditions have filmed strange glowing jellyfish, a ghostly octopus nicknamed "Casper," and deep-sea "krakens" fighting inside of a shipwreck. From now until May 3, 2018, the ship will be broadcasting its undersea adventures live on YouTube.
But on April 17, researchers got a surprise: Thousands of feet beneath the surface in the western Gulf of Mexico, the Okeanos Explorer's remote-controlled submarine spotted a creature that, at first, didn't resemble a squid at all.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists have discovered a possible new species of octopus near the Hawaiian Archipelago:
In the ocean near Hawaii, more than 2 1/2 miles underwater, scientists have discovered a small small, delicate-looking and ghostlike little octopod — possibly a new species. The animal was discovered by Deep Discoverer, a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV — picture a small, unmanned submarine equipped with cameras and a robotic arm — that was working to collect geological samples
Michael Vecchione, of the National Marine Fisheries Service, described the Feb. 27 discovery on the NOAA website:
"As the ROV was traversing a flat area of rock interspersed with sediment at 4,290 meters, it came across a remarkable little octopod sitting on a flat rock dusted with a light coat of sediment. The appearance of this animal was unlike any published records and was the deepest observation ever for this type of cephalopod."
Vecchione explained that cirrate octopods — which have fins between their arms and little finger-like strands near their suckers — have been reported at depths up to 5,000 meters. But the octopod encountered by Deep Discoverer was incirrate, like the familiar octopus — and incirrate octopods have never before been detected at depths below 4,000 meters.
New Frontier in Ocean Exploration: The E/V Nautilus and NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer 2015 Field Season (22.1 MB PDF, starts on page 30):
During two cruise legs of the 2015 E/V Nautilus field season, the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hercules was deployed to examine some of the cold seep features of the deep Gulf of Mexico. Cold seeps are locations where hydrocarbons that are normally trapped deep beneath the seafloor escape into the water column. The hydrocarbons are forced out from the depths by the movement of large salt bodies that developed over the course of several million years as water evaporated from an ancient shallow Gulf of Mexico (Brooks et al., 1987). Shifting of these salt layers produces cracks in the oil-bearing shale that provide pathways for upward migration of oil and gas.
At some seep sites, deep within the sediments, the interaction of porewater and salt results in a highly saline fluid (brine) that can be more than four times more saline than seawater. When this brine is expelled from the sediments, it is far denser than the overlying seawater and does not mix very easily with it. In some cases, the brine forms large pools, or even rivers, as we discovered on one of the ROV dives at a site called Garden Banks 903. [...] At active seep sites where methane and hydrogen sulfide are expelled at the sediment-water interface, large mussel beds can form (reviewed in Cordes et al., 2009). Here in the deep sea where food is generally scarce, bacterial symbionts in the mussels' gills allow them to use dissolved gases being emitted at the seafloor as a source of energy.
[...] On the last leg of these seafloor hydrocarbon community investigations, we focused on a larger brine pool dubbed the "Jacuzzi of Despair," in reference to its warm temperature (19°C) and high salt content—which can be fatal to many macrofauna unlucky enough to fall in (we observed large dead isopods and crabs that had been preserved along the edge of the brine pool). This crater-like, circular, brine-filled pool rose 3 m above the surrounding seafloor, and brine was spilling out on one side in a spectacular "waterfall."