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Over 100 new species found on underwater mountain near Chile

Off the coast of Chile, up to 3,530 metres below sea level, scientists have discovered over 100 previously unknown species living on an underwater mountain.

The planet’s biological tapestry is significantly richer than we knew last week.

Scientists from the Schmidt Ocean Institute have just discovered 100 new species living on an underwater water mountain off the coast of Chile and Easter Island.

Stretching 2,900 kilometres, the rocky formation dubbed the Salas y Gomez Ridge is reportedly home to variants of deep-sea corals, glass sponges, sea urchins, amphipods, squat lobsters, and other mysterious marine creatures previously unknown to science.

Exploring seamounts both inside and outside of Chile’s jurisdiction, researchers used an underwater robot capable of descending depths of up to 4,500 metres to search unexplored areas potentially in need of high-seas protection orders.


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Upon mapping out a previously uncharted seafloor of 52,777 kilometres, the device beamed high definition images from 600 metres below the surface back to the vessel. The team were thrilled to see the mountain was teaming with a ‘mind blowing’ amount of life.

‘We far exceeded our hopes on this expedition. You always expect to find new species in these remote and poorly explored areas, but the amount we found, especially for some groups like sponges, is mind-blowing,’ lead scientists Dr Javier Sellanes explained.

Scientific application aside, the timing of the discovery is fortuitous also, given the biodiversity hotspot is rich in natural minerals like cobalt which companies would be keen to extract for profit. That prospect will now, barring a complete litigatory disaster, be completely off the table.

The South American mining industry received a similar setback recently, when another research group discovered an undocumented species of giant anaconda in the Amazon – which reportedly can grow to 7.5 metres and weigh close to 500 kilograms.

Miners have been warned to steer clear… and you certainly would.

Similarly, on the Salas y Gomez Ridge, it’s encouraging to know that the grossly damaging practice of deep sea mining will now surely be prohibited.

Instead, Dr Javier Sellanes and his team will continue to examine the area in hope of classifying different creatures and their approximate population sizes. I’m particularly keen to know more about the Pokémon-esque ‘sea toad’ pictured above.

‘Full species identification can take many years and Dr. Sillanas and his team have an incredible number of samples,’ revealed Dr. Jyotika Virmani of the Schmidt Ocean Institute.

If you’re keen to follow the team’s journey and hear new revelations as they drop, follow the institute here.