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Oceans Continue to Surprise Us With Animals We Had No Idea Existed


Photograph of the newly discovered Australian reticulate swell shark Cephaloscyllium hiscosellum courtesy CSIRO

Marine biologist Sylvia Earle is fond of saying that a teaspoon of ocean water brims with life. She once told me that the sea is full of animals yet to be discovered. That we know less about the ocean floor than we do about the solar system.

I’m mindful of these words whenever we publish news about discoveries in the oceans. Finds seem to be announced almost every week. Some of the most popular stories we have published have been about giant squid or strange new species of fish.


The northern river shark is one of two freshwater species discovered during a recent research effort completed in September 2008. Read the story and view a gallery of more discoveries.

Photograph courtesy CSIRO

Only last week National Geographic News reported two separate announcements:

The second project was part of the Census of Marine Life, a ten-year initiative to assess global ocean diversity, which has made a number of announcements in recent years.


The “yeti crab,” left, discovered on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, is so extraordinary that a new taxonomic family had to be invented for it.

The new species was found during a deep-sea dive expedition, some 900 miles (1,500 kilometers) off Easter Island.

Living next to hydrothermal vents at depths of 7,540 feet (2,300 meters), the blind white crustacean, named Kiwa hirsute, was also dubbed the yeti (or abominable snowman) crab because of its hairy arms, which support colonies of yellow bacteria.

Read more about this crab and more in the National Geographic News story Surprising Sea Animals Discovered in 2006

Photograph by Ifremer/A. Fifis ©2006, Courtesy of the Census of Marine Life



Last year we published a gallery of Weird Deep-Sea Creatures Found in the Atlantic. My favorite new animal was the one shown on the right, a glass squid found on an expedition to map an undersea mountain range equivalent in size to the European Alps.

sea-discovery-4.jpgSylvia Earle says that what we know about life in the oceans is about what aliens would know about life on Earth if they hovered above us in orbit and randomly sent down a camera on a rope to look around.

Looking at what we keep discovering in the ocean depths proves her point.

Photograph by David Shale, courtesy University of Aberdeen