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East Scotia Ridge, Southern Ocean Hydrothermal Vent Hotspot, Teeming With New Species

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Undated handout photo issued by the Public Library of Science of an unidentified pale octopus found more than 2,000 metres deep on the Southern Ocean floor
Undated handout photo issued by the Public Library of Science of an unidentified pale octopus found more than 2,000 metres deep on the Southern Ocean floor

A series of new undersea discoveries show that life on Earth can thrive where it is least expected. In the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, a team of researchers from the University of Oxford, University of Southampton and British Antarctic Survey have observed a number of previously undiscovered species, including sea anemones, starfish and yeti crabs, reports the CBC.

Researchers were surprised by the biodiversity around these hydrothermal vents. The Antarctic vents they studied are found nearly 8,000 feet below the surface, in complete darkness and can reach temperatures near 700 degrees Fahrenheit, according to The New York Times.

Alex Rogers, the lead researcher from the University of Oxford, said, "Hydrothermal vents have really extended the environmental scope of life way beyond what we previously considered." He added, "These Antarctic vents look different than any other vent system which has been seen before," reports The New York Times.

The researchers, whose work was published this week in PLoS Biology, used a remotely operated vehicle to study marine life near undersea thermal vents.

What they found was nothing short of amazing. The research team found a new type of yeti crab in piles around vents, with hair on its abdomen, inspiring the team to dub the crab "The Hoff."

New species of barnacles, anemones and a "ghost-pale" octopus were also discovered. According to the video from ITN, the new species are colorless because light does not penetrate to depths where the creatures are found.

The discovery has also left scientists optimistic for the future. Cindy Van Dover, director of Duke University's marine laboratory who was not involved with the study, told The Washington Post, "It's remarkable that we can be in the 21st century and still not know fundamental things about what lives on our planet. This is really exciting because it keeps open the door for even more discovery down the road."

In December, news surfaced that another species of yeti crab was discovered near methane vents off the coast of Costa Rica.

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