Discovering weird new species in the open ocean
Discovering weird new species in the open ocean The red paper lantern jellyfish, a strikingly beautiful animal in the web of midwater ocean life (Karen Osborn, Smithsonian Institution)
Discovering weird new species in the open ocean
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When we think about the ocean, we may visualize sea turtles swimming around coral reefs, sea urchins anchored in tidepools, dolphins breaching the surface, or even shrimp gathered around deepwater sulfur vents. But most of the ocean is just open water, miles and miles of it from below the surface to thousands of feet down. This ocean midwater is the largest habitat on Earth!

Yet midwater habitat has not been well-studied because it is difficult to explore. It's mostly cold, dark and under high pressure. Some of its most surprising secrets are animals without backbones (invertebrates), such as worms and jellies, that come in a variety of weird colors and shapes. Many of these midwater species have never been recorded by science, challenging scientists to figure out what they are.

Marine biologists use specialized equipment to find the open ocean's unique invertebrates. Remotely operated vehicles, essentially robots controlled from ocean-going ships, provide a view of the mysterious world of suspended life. Using video cameras, water sensors and unique collection equipment, zoologists catalogue and capture examples of organisms never before named. Some of these organisms rewrite what we know about the intricate web of ocean biodiversity.

Find out watching this Smithsonian Science How webcast titled Ocean Biodiversity - Discovering Marine Invertebrates, on the Q?rius website. Appearing on the webcast is, Dr. Karen Osborn, an invertebrate zoologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Get teaching resources to support your webcast experience.

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  • NickB-2
    3/20/2015 - 11:33 a.m.

    This article is about the ocean. The mid waters of the ocean, miles below the surface, are the largest habitat on earth. They are hard to study, be we are beginning to be able to, using specialized equipment. I think that this is really interestijg, and hope that we find some really incredible new animals through these studies.

  • TreyvaunT
    3/20/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    I love to watch the discovery channel about them finding new sea creatures. They are alwyas in like the dark are and glow. The sea is an interesting place.

  • JadenW-Kut
    3/20/2015 - 08:46 p.m.

    I think it's really great that we're learning more about marine life in the depths of the ocean. Uncovering mysteries that hide below the high pressures and dark waters really fascinates me, considering the fact that we're just so different from them. I can only imagine how happy one would be after finding a new species. This article really sparked scientific curiosity for me to study the hidden wonderful things in the world.

  • TaylorSeifert-Ste
    3/22/2015 - 09:05 p.m.

    It's amazing how many different species are living the Earth, many scientists have yet to discover. Even though it makes me uncomfortable thinking about all creatures out there that could be sharing the same planet with us, it still makes exploring the ocean very intriguing to me.

  • alexisb-Koc
    3/22/2015 - 09:38 p.m.

    This is incredible. I think the ocean is awesome but it's also terrifying because as humans, we know more about space than we do about our own ocean. And with that, we don't even know a whole lot about space either! So it's great and also a bit scary to find new things in our oceans. There's so much more to see and discover about it.

  • jarredc-Koc
    3/22/2015 - 10:00 p.m.

    Much of the ocean that we know and love today is just a big expanse of water. However, it is far more than that, as within its very depths lays a strange world. It is full of life and exotic strangeness that are hidden from the rest of the world. Though life is still and will forever be flourishing there. Perhaps there will even come a day where we too will be a part of its water life.

  • havenr-Koc
    3/22/2015 - 10:10 p.m.

    There are a ton of unknown species that we come across all the time in the ocean. The ones in the deep dark ocean that glow are the coolest ones though. It would be extremely cool and terrifying to down there and see that in person.

  • jacobc-Koc
    3/23/2015 - 12:03 a.m.

    we only discovered a very small amount of our ocean. who knows what else is under those depths. once again another amazing discovery of our very ocean.

  • nylienc-Koc
    3/23/2015 - 12:32 a.m.

    What I've always wondered is when are we actually going to be able to freely rome under water. Like we still cant reach the bottom of the ocean because of the water pressure.

  • jorgeh-Koc
    3/23/2015 - 12:56 a.m.

    I think its pretty cool that the ocean is so wide spread to species unkown. Someday we might get the chance to study these species and learn new things. Science is always advancing so it can happen very soon

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