(University of Alaska Fairbanks press release via EurekAlert! 2 November 2007) -- Fairbanks, ALASKA - There are unknown creatures lurking under the windswept islands of the Aleutians, according to a team of scientific divers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. This summer, while completing the second phase of a two-year broad scientific survey of the waters around the Aleutian Islands, scientists have discovered what may be three new marine organisms. This year's dives surveyed the western region of the Aleutians, from Attu to Amila Island, while last year's assessment covered the eastern region. During the dives, two potentially new species of sea anemones have been discovered. Stephen Jewett, a professor of marine biology and the dive leader on the expedition, says that these are "walking" or "swimming" anemones because they move across the sea floor as they feed. While most sea anemones are anchored to the seabed, a "swimming" anemone can detach and drift with ocean currents. The size of these anemones ranges from the size of a softball to the size of a basketball. Another new species is a kelp or brown algae that scientists have named the "Golden V Kelp" or Aureophycus aleuticus. According to Mandy Lindeberg, an algae expert with NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and a member of the expedition, the kelp may represent a new genus, or even family, of the seaweed. Up to ten feet long, the kelp was discovered near thermal vents in the region of the Islands of the Four Mountains. "Since the underwater world of the Aleutian Islands has been studied so little, new species are being discovered, even today," said Jewett. He adds that even more new species may be revealed as samples collected during the dives continue to be analyzed.
Posted 3 November 2007; 5:11:56 PM. Permalink