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Census of Marine Life explorers surprised by diversity, density of Arctic creatures

A historic expedition of Census of Marine Life explorers to the planet's most northern reaches has revealed a surprising density and diversity of Arctic Ocean creatures, some believed new to science.

Sheltered for millennia under a lid of ice currently one to 20 meters thick, unexpectedly high numbers and varieties of large Arctic jellies, squid, cod, and other animals have been found thriving in the extreme cold, thanks to a landmark voyage during the brief polar summer aboard an American ice cutter.

News of the marine discoveries in the far north coincides with announcement of seed funds for a matching effort in the Antarctic.

The 30-day "Hidden Ocean" expedition (http://www.oceanexplorer.noaa.gov), funded and coordinated by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, an agency of the US Department of Commerce) sailed aboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy with 24 scientists from four countries (the US, Canada, Russia and China).

Eleven of the scientists are engaged in the Census of Marine Life (www.CoML.org), an independent and unprecedented 10-year global scientific collaboration to inventory biodiversity throughout the seas.

The Healy returned to port July 26 with thousands of specimens from the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas and the Canada Basin, a vast bowl walled by steep ridges and lidded with ice.

"The Canada Basin is one of the world's most isolated ocean areas," says Dr. Rolf Gradinger, head of the Arctic CoML, based at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF), and chief scientist on the voyage. "Several creatures brought aboard the Healy are unfamiliar to expedition experts and may well prove new to science."

Early findings amid several thousands specimens and images include suspected new species of jellyfish and benthic bristle worms, and the first squid and octopus ever found in the area.

Scientists were also intrigued to discover among other things two species of sand flea-l
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Source:Census of Marine Life


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