New species of massive single-celled creatures discovered in the Pacific

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2020-06-30 14:30:44

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Two new genera and four new species of giant, single-celled xenophyophores (protozoans belonging to a group called the foraminifera) were discovered in the deep Pacific Ocean during a joint project between scientists at the National Oceanography Centre, UK (NOC), the University of Hawai’i, and the University of Geneva. ‘Moana’ has inspired the name Moanammina for one of the new genera, while the second has been named Abyssalia in recognition of its abyssal habitat.

The species were described, based on morphology and genetic data, from specimens collected with the University of Hawai’i’s Remotely Operated Vehicle Lu’ukai on an expedition to the western Clarion Clipperton Zone (CCZ) aboard the RV Kilo Moana in 2018. The seabed in this area is over three miles deep. The CCZ occupies a vast swathe of the Pacific Ocean with extensive seafloor polymetallic nodule deposits, and is targeted for deep-sea mining.

“We were excited to find these beautiful new xenophyophores,” said Andrew Gooday, professor at NOC and lead author of the recently published findings. “It seemed appropriate to name one after ‘Moana’, a Hawaiian word meaning ocean. Xenophyophores are one of the most common types of large organism found on the CCZ abyssal plains, so the name of the second genus was chosen to reflect this.”

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