The “cunning squirrel” found in a deep-sea abyss looks like a stretchy half-peeled banana

The “cunning squirrel” found in a deep-sea abyss looks like a stretchy half-peeled banana

If there was such a thing as an underwater freak show, this would be it. Scientists at the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London have discovered a mysterious menagerie of marine megafauna deep in the Pacific Ocean, and dozens of the strange creatures may be species unknown to science.

Using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) during the the summer in 2018, scientists discovered 55 specimens lurking on the western edge of a chasm located between Hawaii and Mexico, approximately 16,400 feet (5,000 meters) below sea level. Of this collection of ocean oddities, seven have recently been confirmed as newly discovered species; the researchers’ findings were published July 18 in the journal ZooKeys (opens in new tab).

While the eastern side of the abyss has been explored fairly regularly, its western part, which is known as the Clarion-Clipperton Pacific Zone and includes several nearby seamounts (seamounts), is less accessible and therefore remains largely unexplored, making it a prime location for the discovery of new species.

Of the 55 specimens collected, seven were confirmed as new species, including Chrysogorgia abludo, a type of coral.

Chrysogorgia abludospecies of coral, is one of seven confirmed new species discovered during the expedition. (Image credit: DeepCCZ Expedition, Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation & NOAA)

“About 150 years ago, [HMS] Expedition Challenger explored this area, but as far as I know, not much research has been done since then,” Guadalupe Bribieska-Contreras, an NHM biologist in the Division of Life Sciences and lead author of the study, told Live Science. “This part of the ocean barely is touched.”

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