In 2013, a team of geochemists off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica sent underwater vehicles to explore the Dorado Outcrop, a rocky piece of ocean floor, 150 miles from land. They hoped to collect samples of warm water from hydrothermal springs in the hardened lava that formed the outcrop. But as reported by MindS Weisberger at LiveScience, they were overwhelmed by the images coming back from two miles under the waves: hundreds of beautiful, purple octopus mums huddled around the openings and incubated their eggs.
The chemists shared the find with marine biologists who were drugged. "When I saw the photos for the first time, I thought," No, they should not be there! Not so deep and not so many, "says Janet Voight, co-curator of Zoology at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, in a press release . She is co-author of a study on the weird creatures this week in the journal Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers "I never would have expected such a dense group of these animals in the deep sea," she says.
From then on, the mystery deepens While the researchers have not formally described or named the new cephalopods, they determined that they belonged to an undiscovered species in the genus Muuscoctopus . Usually, octopuses are in this species Group of loners, so it was surprising to see them grouped together.
Unfortunately, this beautiful group of mothers was lost, Voight tells Nathanial Scharping of Discover that the fate of an octopus is a bit tragic; They breed only once in their lives and put all their energy into the production of eggs. Once laid and attached to a rock or other hard structure, the eggs spend the rest of their failing energy protecting and dying their eggs shortly after their offspring swim away.
But Voight found that the developing octopus embryos could not make it under the conditions near the volcanic vents the group had chosen. Warm water rising from the volcanic cracks accelerates embryonic development. But this creates a greater need for oxygen, which is scarce near the vents. "When embryos start to develop from fertilized cells, they increase their oxygen consumption … and they are confronted with less available oxygen," says Scharping. "I do not see how they can possibly survive."
After examining 186 of the eggs over images from the submersible, she found no single one with a developing embryo. This raises the question: Why should so many octopuses choose such a terrible place to look after their eggs?
According to the press release, much of the Dorado outcrop may be a great place to grow an octopus family with ideal locations for clutches in other cracks and crevices in the hardened lava. But these places may have been full, and so this unhappy group of mothers was forced to choose a less ideal nursery. It is also possible that the columns were not as active as the octopus laid their eggs, reports Weisberger. The warm water and the low oxygen content could have come later.
The fact that hydrothermal wells are among the Earth's most intriguing and least explored systems is another interesting aspect. The vents, where hot, mineral-rich water heated by magma flows underground through the cracks in the seabed, were not discovered until 1977. Since then, researchers have discovered that they harbor extremophilic organisms, such as bacteria that can survive incredibly high heat and pressure, which help scientists understand what life on other planets might look like.
The new violet octopus is probably not the last surprise found at sea slots. (In fact, researchers have observed some tentacles that blow from other, more inviting cracks in the rock.) "This is just the third hydrothermal system of its kind to be sampled, but millions of similar environments exist in the deep sea," geochemist Geoff Wheat, of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and co-author of the study says in the news release. "What other remarkable discoveries are waiting for us?"
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