Marine Biology

Rare Supergiant Crustaceans Found off new Zealand Coastal Waters

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"Rare Supergiant Crustaceans Found off new Zealand Coastal Waters"
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A remarkable discovery was made near New Zealand under the deep seas of Kermadec Trench. While on an expedition to explore the ocean depths, scientists from the United Kingdom and New Zealand had laid a trap about four miles (6.4 kilometers) down. What they pulled up surprised them.

The collaborating scientists, from Scotland's University of Aberdeen and New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), found when they pulled up their trap they had caught "supergiant" crustaceans. Instead of the average half-inch long (2-3 centimeters) shrimp, the length of these shellfish were about a foot long (approximately 30.5 centimeters).

There were seven "supergiants" caught in all, and experts were able to get a close-up look at a rare finding.

Kermadec Trench is considered to be one of the deepest trenches on Earth, about five times deeper than the Grand Canyon. It is not only deep, but extremely dark, cold and characteristically has extreme water pressure.

According to Live Science, similar sea life found in Kermadec Trench has been "glimpsed only a handful of times in human history."

Most of the time these critters are said to be very elusive to humans. In addition to the catch, other deep-sea cameras noted additional large crustaceans in the area. BBC reported the largest spotted on the camera was 34 centimeters long (about 13 inches).

Although not nearly as large as the giant shrimp-like creatures off the New Zealand coast, previously 4-inch shrimp-like sea life was found in Antarctic waters, reported Discovery News.

"We pulled up the trap, and lying among the fish were these absolutely massive amphipods, and there was no inkling whatsoever that these things should be there," said Alan Jamieson, a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and leader of the expedition, reported Live Science.

"They actually don't feel real," Jamieson added. "They feel like plastic toys. They have a waxy texture to them."  

A follow-up trip to the same section of the ocean was made a week later; there were no signs of the "supergiants" in the waters.

While this latest stunning find was reported earlier this year, the find was actually made in November 2011, according to media reports. Over the course of history, little documentation exists about these remarkable amphipods. According to the Live Science report, supergiant amphipods (scientific name Alicella gigantea) were first discovered in 1899, and then not seen again until the 1970s.

In the 1980s the amphipods were dubbed as "supergiants" when they were found again, that time off the coast of Hawaii.

"It just goes to show that the more you look, the more you find," said Dr. Ashley Rowden, from Niwa, reported BBC earlier this year. "For such a large and conspicuous animal to go unnoticed for so long is just testament to how little we know about life in New Zealand's most deep and unique habitat."

An area largely unexplored, deep-sea explorations can turn up unique wildlife that are rarely, if ever, seen. A recent CNN report highlights images taken of a number of unusual findings made during deep-sea canyon exploration in recent times.

More about this author: Leigh Goessl

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