Ground-breaking research voyage in Australia’s newest marine park makes rare deep-sea discoveries
While on a mission to map the volcanic geography of Cocos (Keeling) Islands Marine Park off Western Australia, researchers aboard the vessel Investigator also surveyed the deep-sea life in the Indian Ocean Territories.
In doing so, they came face-to-face with many fascinating, and some previously unknown, species.
Besides filming videos of the vast marine life amidst the summits of seamounts, the team also collected specimens from depths as deep as five kilometres below the surface.
Once the expedition returned to port in early November 2022 after 35 days at sea, the researchers set about studying and documenting the specimens they retrieved from the deep sea. Some of the species include:
- the Sloane's viperfish, which have light organs along its underside and a long upper fin with light organs on the tip that it uses to attract prey;
- a previously unknown blind eel, covered in loose transparent gelatinous skin, that give birth to live young;
- the deep-sea batfish, with its arm-like fins and a small "fishing lure" in a small hollow on their snout that it uses to attract prey;
- the highfin lizard fish, with its long sharp teeth and an ovotestis with functional male and female reproductive tissue;
- the tribute spiderfish, with its long lower fns with thickened tips that enables it to prop upwards off the surface as if it were on stilts.
We have discovered an amazing number of potentially new species living in this remote marine park
Dr Tim O’Hara, Chief Scientist of the expedition and Senior Curator, Marine Inveterbrates at Museums Victoria Research Institute
During the expedition, the researchers had been sharing their discoveries with more than 850 school students and community members in Australia through real-time livestreaming.
The expedition was a collaboration between Museums Victoria Research Institute and CSIRO, in partnership with Bush Blitz, Parks Australia, Australian Museum Research Institute and the Western Australian Museum.