Meet the bizarre ocean creatures discovered living near deep-sea volcanoes in the Indian Ocean 


A new world of weird and wonderful creatures has been discovered living near deep sea volcanoes in the Indian Ocean.

Scientists from the Museums Victoria Research Institute returned from a 35-day expedition mapping the seafloor in Australia’s remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park last week.

During their 6,800 mile (11,000 km) journey, they came face-to-face with a blind eel with gelatinous skin, and a hermaphrodite lizard fish with long sharp teeth.

They also encountered some adorable deep-sea batfishes which resemble dumplings and hobble over the seabed on their arm-like fins.

‘We have discovered an amazing number of potentially new species living in this remote marine park,’ said Dr Tim O’Hara, the Chief Scientist of the expedition. 

‘We are proud that our maps, data and images will be used by Parks Australia to manage the new marine park into the future.’

During their 6,800 mile (11,000 km) journey, the researchers came face-to-face with the Highfin Lizard fish, which possesses an ovotestis with both male and female functional reproductive tissue

They also encountered some adorable deep-sea batfishes, which resemble dumplings, and hobble over the seabed on their arm-like fins

They also encountered some adorable deep-sea batfishes, which resemble dumplings, and hobble over the seabed on their arm-like fins

The batfish has a tiny 'fishing lure' tucked into their hollow snout that it can wiggle about to attract prey

The batfish has a tiny ‘fishing lure’ tucked into their hollow snout that it can wiggle about to attract prey 

The ‘Investigator’ research vessel set off to Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories that surround Christmas and Cocos Islands in September to image the vast undersea mountains that are the largest in the country.

This was to complete a research project that began in 2021, and is intended to aid the management and protection of the area after it was established as part of a marine park by the Australian Government in March.

The seamounts there formed as giant volcanoes between 50 and 140 million years ago, before they gradually sank into the light oceanic seafloor.

Over time, these became covered in skeletons and shells of ancient creatures and were compressed into limestone, before some were uplifted out of the water again by immense ocean forces.

The flat-topped sea mountains also now contain networks of marine and terrestrial caves and canyons where an ecosystem of brilliant sea organisms thrive.

As part of the expedition, the researchers also wanted to take samples of some of these deep-sea creatures for study and exhibition, some of which were taken as deep as three miles (five km) below the surface.

The researchers found an extraordinary Sloane¿s Viperfish that has light organs across their underside and upper fin

The researchers found an extraordinary Sloane’s Viperfish that has light organs across their underside and upper fin 

The Sloane's Viperfish has teeth that are so large they are visible even when its mouth its closed

The Sloane’s Viperfish has teeth that are so large they are visible even when its mouth its closed

A previously-unknown blind eel that is covered in a loose, transparent skin and gives birth to live young as opposed to eggs

A previously-unknown blind eel that is covered in a loose, transparent skin and gives birth to live young as opposed to eggs 

A Tribute Spiderfish was also picked up, which stands on its stilt-like lower fins to reach its mouth into higher currents and catch small prawns drifting by

A Tribute Spiderfish was also picked up, which stands on its stilt-like lower fins to reach its mouth into higher currents and catch small prawns drifting by

The animals and plants that call the seamounts their home have migrated great distances to get there, having been assisted by strong currents flowing from the Pacific Ocean east and Indian Ocean northwest. 

Only a few survive this long journey, and the species that have done originate from one of these oceans, or are a hybrid of the two. 

This includes the previously-unknown blind eel that is covered in a loose, transparent skin and gives birth to live young as opposed to eggs.

The Pelican Eel, on the other hand, has velvety black skin and a glowing organ on the tip of its tale to lure in its prey.

While its head may be tiny, this eel has a massive, expandable stomach capable of devouring larger food items.

A Tribute Spiderfish was also picked up, which stands on its stilt-like lower fins to reach its mouth into higher currents and catch small prawns drifting by.

Another fish discovered and named after another animal is the Highfin Lizard fish, which possesses an ovotestis with both male and female functional reproductive tissue.

A flatfish from the order Pleuronectiformes

A flatfish from the order Pleuronectiformes

A flatfish from the order Pleuronectiformes, which have both their eyes on one side of their head to retain vision while lying camouflaged on the seabed 

The 'Investigator' research vessel set off to Australia¿s Indian Ocean Territories that surround Christmas and Cocos Islands in September to image the vast undersea mountains that are the largest in the country. Pictured: Conger eel

The ‘Investigator’ research vessel set off to Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories that surround Christmas and Cocos Islands in September to image the vast undersea mountains that are the largest in the country. Pictured: Conger eel

The researchers found a Sloane’s Viperfish, whose teeth are so large they are visible even when its mouth its closed, and have light organs across their underside and upper fin.

Found 2.5 miles (four km) underwater was the Slender Snipe Eel, which can reach a metre in length while only weighing 1.8 oz (50 grams).

This eel has hooked teeth to tear apart crustaceans, and are permanently on show as it is unable to close its curved jaws.  

Pancake sea urchins were also discovered, but unfortunately aren’t as tasty as they sound, as its flat body is covered in spines tipped with poison. 

Found 2.5 miles (4 km) underwater was the Slender Snipe Eel, which can reach a metre in length while only weighing 1.8 oz (50 grams). This eel has hooked teeth to tear apart crustaceans, and are permanently on show as it is unable to close its curved jaws

Found 2.5 miles (4 km) underwater was the Slender Snipe Eel, which can reach a metre in length while only weighing 1.8 oz (50 grams). This eel has hooked teeth to tear apart crustaceans, and are permanently on show as it is unable to close its curved jaws

The animals and plants that call the seamounts their home have migrated great distances to get there, having been assisted by strong currents flowing from the Pacific Ocean east and Indian Ocean northwest. Pictured: An unclassified cutthroat eel

The animals and plants that call the seamounts their home have migrated great distances to get there, having been assisted by strong currents flowing from the Pacific Ocean east and Indian Ocean northwest. Pictured: An unclassified cutthroat eel

The team has now produced detailed, three dimensional maps of the underwater mountains, which has never been visualised like this before.

Dr O’Hara said: ‘We have beamed these new 3D maps and underwater video images directly from the vessel to the people of Cocos (Keeling) Islands, who have been super excited to see their seascape in all its grandeur.’

Nelson Kuna, one of two Hydrographic Surveyors on board from Australian science agency CSIRO, added: ‘The data set now covers a substantial area of the new marine park and shows the Cocos (Keeling) Islands as the twin peaks of a massive seamount that rises nearly 5,000m from the surrounding seafloor.

‘It’s truly an honour to see, for the first time, these stunning features revealed from the deep.’

The team onboard the 'Investigator' (pictured) has now produced detailed, three dimensional maps of the underwater mountains, which has never been visualised like this before

The team onboard the ‘Investigator’ (pictured) has now produced detailed, three dimensional maps of the underwater mountains, which has never been visualised like this before

Scientists from the Museums Victoria Research Institute returned from the 35-day expedition mapping the seafloor in Australia's remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park last weekend

Scientists from the Museums Victoria Research Institute returned from the 35-day expedition mapping the seafloor in Australia’s remote Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park last weekend

During the first part of the Investigator’s expedition last year, the scientists discovered an underwater volcano that looks like the ‘Eye of Sauron’ — the fiery manifestation of the evil dark lord from the Lord of the Rings films.

Researchers with CSIRO mapped the feature using underwater sonar during an voyage exploring the nation’s Indian Ocean Territories.

The eye-lookalike was detectedx at a depth of 10,171 feet below sea level, some 174 miles southeast of Christmas Island.

Scans revealed the volcano as an oval shaped depression 3.9 by 3 miles across, with a 984 foot-high rim resembling eyelids and a similarly-sized central peak like a pupil. 

To the south of the ‘eye’, the team also found a sea mountain covered in volcanic cones and, beyond that, a larger, flat-topped seamount covered in pumice.

In keeping with their theme, they dubbed them Barad-dûr (the ‘Dark Fortress’ capped by Sauron’s eye in the film trilogy) and Ered Lithui (‘Ash Mountains’).

A volcano that looks like the 'Eye of Sauron' ¿ the fiery manifestation of the dark lord from the Lord of the Rings films ¿ was found off of the coast of Australia. Scans revealed the volcano as an oval shaped depression 3.9 by 3 miles across, with a 984 foot-high rim resembling eyelids and a similarly-sized central peak like a pupil

A volcano that looks like the ‘Eye of Sauron’ — the fiery manifestation of the dark lord from the Lord of the Rings films — was found off of the coast of Australia. Scans revealed the volcano as an oval shaped depression 3.9 by 3 miles across, with a 984 foot-high rim resembling eyelids and a similarly-sized central peak like a pupil

Aboard the research vessel Investigator, the team detected the eye-lookalike at a depth of 10,171 feet below sea level, some 174 miles southeast of Christmas Island

Aboard the research vessel Investigator, the team detected the eye-lookalike at a depth of 10,171 feet below sea level, some 174 miles southeast of Christmas Island

Scientists discover new ‘oasis of life’ in the Maldives where sharks go to feast on krill 

A new ecosystem has been discovered 1,640 feet (500 metres) down in the depths of the Indian Ocean, where hungry sharks go to feast on krill.

Named ‘The Trapping Zone’, scientists have described it as an ‘oasis of life’ in the midst of a ‘very large ocean desert’ in the Maldives.

Predators such as sharks and other large fish swarm to the area to feast on a hive of small organisms known as micronekton.

These are marine organisms that can swim independently of the current, migrating to the ocean surface at night and diving back into the deep at dawn.

However, according to researchers from the University of Oxford, these micronekton become trapped against the underwater landscape at 1,640 feet (500 metres) deep.

‘This has all the hallmarks of a distinct new ecosystem’, said Professor Alex Rogers who has spent over 30 hours underwater observing The Trapping Zone.

Read more here

A new ecosystem of krill and plankton has been discovered 1,640 feet (500 metres) down in the depths of the Indian Ocean

A new ecosystem of krill and plankton has been discovered 1,640 feet (500 metres) down in the depths of the Indian Ocean

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