December 2, 2020

Prawn to be wild!

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Scientists discover a new species of shrimp here

Dr Jon Copley

Scientists from a UK university have discovered a new species of shrimp off the coast of Cayman.

The find was made by a team from Southampton University who also discovered the world’s most extreme deep-sea volcanic vents.

They say their research provides a vital piece in the jigsaw of fully understanding the planet, and the way creatures evolve and adapt.

Around 800 metres deeper than any vents seen before, they spew out mineral-laden water at temperatures thought to be hotter than 450C, that can travel up to a kilometre towards the surface.

And the “black smokers” in the Cayman Trough, an undersea trench south of the Cayman Islands, provide life for thousands of a new species of shrimp which has a light-sensing organ on its back instead of normal eyes.

The researchers have named the shrimp Rimicaris hybisae after the deep-sea vehicle they used to collect them.

The Caribbean discoveries, by a team led by marine geochemist Dr Doug Connelly at Southampton’s National Oceanography Centre and marine biologist Dr Jon Copley, from Southampton University, come just weeks after revelations of similar finds by Southampton scientists in the Indian Ocean and near Antarctica.

The new species of shrimp

Dr Copley said the research provides vital information about deep ocean environments, which are increasingly being targeted for fishing and oil production.

He said: “It just shows how amazing our planet is, and how resilient life is that it can thrive in such environments.

“We need to determine what lives where, and this tells us more about how animals disperse and evolve in the deep ocean.

“One of the big mysteries of deep-sea vents is how animals are able to disperse from vent field to vent field, crossing the apparently large distances between them.

“But maybe there are more ‘stepping stones’ like these out there than we realised.

“We think of our planet as explored, but in reality our exploration hasn’t yet begun – more than half of the world is covered by water that’s more than two miles deep.”

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