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Oxford, England (UPI) Jan 4, 2012
British researchers say they've discovered extraordinary new species of animals living near hydrothermal vents below the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean.
Oxford researchers say they've found an environment unlike anything found around other hydrothermal vents in other oceans, populated by previously unknown species of anemones, predatory sea stars and piles of hairy-chested yeti crabs, The Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday.
It was "almost like a sight from another planet," Oxford zoology Professor Alex Rogers said.
While weird life forms have been observed at deep-sea vents the world over, hydrothermal vents had never been found in Antarctica before, Jon Copley, a professor at the University of Southampton who also participated in the research, said.
Research in the harsh conditions of the Southern Ocean is more difficult than in temperate environments, he said.
"It's only quite recently that we've been able to be bold enough, really, to head to the poles," Copley said.
Researchers lowered cameras to two areas, 8,530 feet and 7,874 feet deep to capture the first records of antarctic hydrothermal vents and their strange inhabitants.
Beyond the Ice Age
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