New Zealand Ocean Research Finds Dozens of New Species

Mar 20, 2024

Searching through a haul of creatures from the depths of the ocean off the coast of New Zealand, researchers marveled at their tiny find: a strange, eight-armed brown blob that seems half octopus, half coral.

“It is still a mystery. We can’t even describe it to family. We don’t know where it is in the tree (of life) as of yet, so that’ll be interesting,” Dr. Daniel Moore told CNN. Moore's the expedition science manager of Ocean Census.

Ocean Census was founded in 2023. It aims to document more than 100,000 new species over the next ten years. It includes biologists and oceanographers from around the world. Their most recent mission was in February. That’s when they found the super tiny “octocoral.” The team was investigating the mysterious Bounty Trough. It's a 500-mile long, 3-mile deep trench. The team published their findings in a press release earlier this month.

“You’ve got this big area off the east coast of New Zealand where there’s just an (absolute) paucity of data points. We don’t know anything about it,” Moore said. “It was true exploration, very exciting.”

Using sleds dragged along the ocean floor, Ocean Census unearthed almost 100 species that might be new to science. Among them: a red-flecked, transparent squid; an alien-esque shrimp with a scorpion-like tail, and many species of fish. The latter proved particularly exciting.  

“Finding new vertebrates is rare. There’s hundreds of thousands of invertebrates in the sea that we still don’t know. Vertebrates, we like to think that we know what’s out there, but the (truth) is, we just don’t,” Moore said of one of the little fish. It's perhaps a subspecies of eelpout.  

Reflect: Imagine a never-before-discovered deep sea creature. What attributes of your new creature would excite scientists the most?

Photo of newly-discovered sea creatures courtesy Ocean Census/NIWA.

What is the author’s purpose in writing this article? (Common Core RI.5.6; RI.6.6)
a. to persuade readers to support ocean conservation efforts
b. to entertain readers with stories about the ocean
c. to inform readers about recent scientific discoveries and exploration achievements
d. to criticize the methods used in oceanic exploration
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