'Longest animal ever' discovered off Western Australia's coast

Researchers have discovered a 45-metre long siphonophore - a gelatinous string of tiny invertebrates joined together- during a deep dive into the underwater canyons of Ningaloo, Western Australia.

A 45-metre-long creature, possibly the longest ever documented, has been discovered by a team of researchers in underwater canyons off the coast of Western Australia.

The siphonophore Apolemia - a gelatinous floating colony of thousands of tiny individual bodies strung together - was one of many discoveries found by the month-long expedition in the Ningaloo canyons in the Indian Ocean.

Chief Scientist Dr Nerida Wilson said the exact measurement of the creature was still being established, and that the length was an estimate.

"We suspected these deep sea areas would be diverse but we have been blown away by the significance of what we have seen," she said.

Scientists from the Geoscience Australia and Scripps Institution of Oceanography used the underwater robot 'ROV SuBastian' to complete 20 dives at depths up to 4,500 metres.

In addition to the giant siphonophore, they discovered 30 new underwater species, including sea cucumbers, molluscs, barnacles and lobster species.

"These specimens represent so many extensions in depth and range records for so many species," said Dr Lisa Kirkendale from the Western Australian Museum.

Some of the species recovered by the expedition.
Source: Supplied

The expedition was part of the Schmidt Ocean Institute's year-long initiative to gather footage and samples from Australian oceans to investigate habitats under threat from rising ocean temperatures and environmental threats.

Wendy Schdmit, the Institute's co-founder, said the expedition's robotic submarine was able to explore deep ocean areas which had never been explored before.

Published 18 April 2020 at 2:07pm, updated 18 April 2020 at 2:14pm
By Fintan McDonnell
Source: Reuters - SBS