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

When we think about the ocean, we may visualize sea turtles swimming around coral reefs, sea urchins anchored in tide pools, 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. That's 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. They 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 more by joining us on Thursday, March 26, 2015, for a Smithsonian Science How live webcast titled Ocean Biodiversity - Discovering Marine Invertebrates. It airs at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT on the Q?rius website. Dr. Karen Osborn, an invertebrate zoologist at the National Museum of Natural History, will appear live to discuss and answer questions. Get teaching resources to support your webcast experience.

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  • sashatudd-Paw
    3/24/2015 - 03:53 p.m.

    The ocean is a mystery that is ready to be explored. Even though we all think we know so much about the ocean, we really don't. There is so much pressure, mileage, and so many creatures that it is almost impossible to know everything. The text states that marine biologists have to use specialized equipment. That equipment must be very expensive and rare. Yet, these expenses are worth it when you see the amazing secrets the sea holds. In the text, it says midwater habitats are not well explored. This is mostly because of the temperature, air pressure, and amount of light. According to the text, some midwater organisms rewrite the science books! They are so original and peculiar that they function differently. So, next time you are swimming in the ocean, think about the amazing creatures swimming around below you!