'Extraordinary' undersea world, complete with 100 new species, discovered off Tasmania

The CSIRO research vessel Investigator has returned to Hobart after a four-week maritime mission.

Researchers have discovered new areas of deep-sea reef south of Tasmania that contain more than 100 unnamed species, including corals, lobsters and molluscs.

The mission, spearheaded by CSIRO, returned to Hobart on Wednesday after scouring a series of "undersea mountains" for four weeks.

Most of these mountains are protected in the Tasman Fracture and Huon marine parks.

"We surveyed 45 seamounts in total, and criss-crossed seven in detail," voyage chief scientist Alan Williams of CSIRO said in a statement.

A rock crab discovered on the mission.
Source: CSIRO

The team found all manner of underwater creatures including bioluminescent squids, ghost sharks, deep-water sharks and basketwork eels.

"We now have a huge body of data on the animals that live on seamounts and how their communities change with depth, and have a much broader picture of what lives on habitats adjacent to the seamounts," Dr Williams said.

A still from the underwater footage.
Source: NESP Marine Biodiversity Hub

And he said while it will "take months to fully analyse the coral distributions, we have already seen healthy deep-sea coral communities on many smaller seafloor hills and raised ridges away from the seamounts".

"This means that there is more of this important coral reef in the Huon and Tasman Fracture marine parks than we previously realised."

Head of Parks Australia's Marine Protected Areas Branch Jason Mundy said "research voyages such as these are critically important to helping us understand, appreciate and protect Australian marine parks".

"The images from this voyage remind us what extraordinary and diverse environments we are protecting in these special places."

A baby blobfish comes on board.
Source: CSIRO

Published 19 December 2018 at 7:16pm
By Nick Baker