A deep sea expedition to unexplored depths of the Indian Ocean has revealed a sea rich with peculiar inhabitants from over 800 species, including at least a dozen entirely new to science.
Among the extraordinary treasure trove of new creatures is a spider crab with fuzzy spines and blood-red eyes, a small wood-dwelling sea star, and a giant cockroach almost a foot (30 centimeters) long.
The monstrous-looking ocean dwellers were identified during the first such scientific expedition to the southern coast of West Java, Indonesia.
Around 12,000 specimens belonging to 800 species were collected during the two-week mission, while over a dozen new breeds of hermit crabs, prawns, lobsters, and crabs were discovered.
The South Java Deep Sea Expedition was carried out by a 31-member team from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. Samples of crustaceans were collected from 63 sites, at depths averaging 800 meters, with the deepest depth sampled at 2,100 meters.
Three new species of spider crabs were found, including one affectionately called ‘Big Ears’ due to what resembles oversized ears protecting its red eyes.
A “supergiant” cockroach species was also among the discoveries, marking the first time such a creature has been found in Indonesia. Researchers believe this could be an entirely new species, as it appears to be quite different to other described species of its kind.
The expedition was not without challenges, however, as the team had to deal with rough seas and inaccurate maps which led to equipment damage as the depths were not marked correctly.
The team also noted the high level of plastic pollution in the sea, revealing that one of the crabs was in fact found in discarded underwear. The project’s focus now turns to studying the collected samples – a task that could take up to two years.
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