by Brooks Hays
Southampton, England (UPI) Dec 15, 2016
Researchers have discovered six new species living near hydrothermal vents on the sea floor.
The collection of hot springs, called Longqi, which translates as "Dragon's Breath," are situated 1,240 miles southeast of Madagascar, 1.7 miles beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean.
Unique communities of deep sea creatures are drawn to warmth emanating from Longqi's vent chimneys, mineral spires rising two stories in height.
In 2011, a team of scientists the University of Southampton, Newcastle University and London's Natural History Museum began exploring the vents with a deep-diving, remote-controlled submersible -- the first survey of its kind in the region.
During their exploratory missions, scientists found six new species unique to the Longqi vents. First, scientists found a hairy-chested crab similar to the "Hoff crab" found near vents in Antarctica. Hoff crabs are a species of deep-sea squat lobster yet to be described in the scientific literature.
Researchers also discovered two species of snail, as well as a new species of limpet, scaleworm and deep-sea worm.
"We can be certain that the new species we've found also live elsewhere in the southwest Indian Ocean, as they will have migrated here from other sites, but at the moment no one really knows where, or how well-connected their populations are with those at Longqi," lead researcher Jon Copley, a scientist at Southampton, said in a news release. "Our results highlight the need to explore other hydrothermal vents in the southwest Indian Ocean and investigate the connectivity of their populations, before any impacts from mineral exploration activities and future deep-sea mining can be assessed."
Copley and his colleagues described their discoveries in the journal Scientific Reports.
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