Huw Griffiths, a marine biogeographer at the British Antarctic Survey, was eating pancakes when the news broke. The wreckage of Endurance – The famous ship led by Ernest Shackleton, which sank during an expedition in 1915, was discovered.
Dr. Griffiths was more interested in images than breakfast. His first thought was that the ship was almost fake, considering how eerily intact it remained 106 years after sinking to the bottom of the Weddell Sea near Antarctica. His second thought: What was he living on?
Over the years the ship has become as green as a garden. Inside Twitter series, Dr. Griffiths zoomed in on images of the wreckage to draw attention to the creatures he knew: anemones, sponges, sea squirts, starfish, and a lemon-yellow sea lily. The other tenants were more mysterious—white branches, clear spots, and a mysterious feather-shaped creature.
Christopher Mah, a starfish researcher at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, said he expects “a rich plethora of creatures living in and among the wreckage of Endurance.” In the deep sea, where food is scarce and the landscape is often mushy mud, a shipwreck is valuable real estate.
According to Louise Allcock, a zoologist at the National University of Ireland Galway, the wreck offers insight into the types of life that lived on the hard structures in the Weddell Sea. Dr. “A lot of work has been done in the Weddell Sea, but mostly on soft bottoms,” Allcock said. “There’s a chance that there will be new species just because of the lack of care,” she added.
When Katrin Linse, a marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey, scanned images of the wreckage in her office, she marveled at anemones, worms, sponges, and perhaps even a bright red amphipod, a species in the genus Eurythenes that swims away from the sea. debris. Then, perched by a porthole, she noticed something quite startling. “There’s a crab,” said Dr. Linse. “It shouldn’t be there.”
Dr. Linse, who helped discover First hydrothermal vent in the Southern Ocean to see white crabs. Ghostly white creatures in deep-sea mud can indicate the presence of vents nearby.
Dr. Linse, Dr. He texted Griffiths asking why he didn’t mention the crab.
He had completely overlooked the animal, its presence in the video was just a long-legged white dot. A crab may be commonplace in many places, but a crab has never been seen before in the Weddell Sea. Dr. When Linse watched the video again, she found three more crabs.
Paula Rodríguez Flores, a researcher who studies deep-sea scrub lobsters at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, said that the general absence of decapods, including shrimp, crabs and lobsters, in Antarctica “has intrigued arctic biologists for many years.” an e-mail.
Scientists once assumed that ten-legged crabs were exiled from Antarctica millions of years ago and only recently returned due to climate change, so “finding crabs in Antarctica is still very exciting,” he said.
Dr. Griffiths wondered if the crab seen in the wreck was a species in the Kiwaidae family. hairy white yeti crab It lives with vents in Antarctica. But a closer look revealed that the crustacean was not a crab, but a deep-sea scrub lobster of the genus Munidopsis, said Dr. Rodriguez Flores.
There is only one species of dwarf lobster recorded in Antarctic waters. “This is definitely a different species,” he said, adding that a closer examination would identify it.
The presence of crustaceans raises many new questions. “How did they get there?” Lins asked. “Is this a Munidopsis new species?” Dr. Rodriguez Flores asked. “Does it eat the ship?” Doctor Griffiths asked.
While the Crab is free to talk about Endurance, most of the ship’s other inhabitants are passive feeders such as crinoids, glass sponges, and anemones. Dr. Griffiths said these creatures most likely made their living by scattering waste called sea snow, which contains lots of krill excrement. Dr. The ship’s height above the seafloor allows these largely immobile creatures to take advantage of water currents to feed, Mah said.
Although the video quality precluded closer identification of many of these species, some residents stood out, especially near the ship’s steering wheel. Dr. Mah described a six-armed starfish as a snake. brisingid starfish, either Freyastera or Belgicella. These stars extend their barbed arms into the water to catch small crustaceans and other food, he added.
scientists, a creature A hydroid or a black coral sitting next to the wheel resembling an ostrich feather crossed with a Christmas tree. Dr. Allcock is the team’s hydroid, noting that the hull doesn’t look flat enough for black coral. Joan J. Soto Angel, a researcher at the University of Bergen in Norway, added that it does not resemble hydroids known from such depths, but is “100 percent sure that there must be several types of hydroids growing in the wreckage.”
The Endurance wreck is considered a historical monument under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty. Dr. “No one is allowed to touch it,” Griffiths said. Still, higher resolution videos could help scientists determine which species inhabit the wreckage and whether any of them are new.
For Estefanía Rodriguez, a curator who studies anemones at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, clearer videos may not be enough for species identification. Endurance is adorned with tentacled stems of anemone, ranging from thick white ones to thinner orange ones. But many species of anemones look the same from the outside, which means researchers have to open them up to identify them.
Dr. “After working on this band for over 20 years, if someone shows me a picture and asks what it is, I’d just say ‘anemone’,” Rodriguez said. “Not because I am useless at my job.”
Dr. With extreme caution, Rodriguez suggested that the stout white anemone belonged to the family Actinostolidae and the orange anemones to the family Hormathiidae.
Dr. While Rodriguez was happy to see the wreckage found, he was even more delighted to see that the hull of the old ship was dominated by anemones, which he said were unstudied animals. “The group is about 600 million years old. That’s what fascinates me,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “How they hold up: They are tough stuff.”
For now, it’s hard to say how old Endurance’s invertebrate crew is – how many were moved just after it sank 106 years ago or more recently. But glass sponges can live for thousands of years, and anemones for decades.
The largest living creature behind the wheel of the Endurance, as seen in the video, is an anemone (species unidentified).
Dr. “The old crew survived and that’s what moved here,” Griffiths said. “Who knows where that sea anemone took him?”