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More than 100 new species discovered off of the coast of Chile

Posted at 3:34 PM, Mar 27, 2024

CHILE — Off of the coast of Chile, an undersea discovery has revealed more than 100 previously undiscovered species.

A team of scientists was exploring the seamounts in the southern part of the Nazca Ridge and the eastern section of the Salas y Gomez Ridge

The team used a robot to dive down thousands of feet for a chance to capture something no human has seen before.

“We were expecting to find some new species but we certainly were not expecting to find over a hundred potential new species,” said Erin Easton, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the co-chief scientist on the expedition.

The new species include fish, mollusks, crustaceans, urchins, other echinoderms, coral and sponges.

For the sponges alone, Easton estimates that they have discovered more than 30 potential new species and 20 new species of squat lobsters.

“It's really impressive. I was really very emotional at times, just struck by the beauty and the mixture of species and really the age of some of the species. Some of the corals we observed are likely thousands of years old and to know that we are seeing a community that has persisted for thousands of years despite everything humans are doing to damage our oceans and how much the world has changed both naturally and through human impacts,” Easton said.

Now her team is on another expedition to explore the seamounts of the western part of the Salas y Gomez Ridge where, once again, they are collecting new species.

“Discovering such high biodiversity and so many potential new species really highlights how much more of the ocean we have yet to explore and how much more we have to understand,” she said.

The team is still working to process all of the samples, to describe the species they collected and do more analyses on their genetics. That information will help them understand how all of these species are interconnected. There could also be medicinal or other discoveries yet to be made.

The team plans to pass that information on to lawmakers so they can take steps to protect the area where the species were found and impact earth.