‘Gummy squirrel’ found in deep-sea abyss looks like a stretchy half-peeled banana

If there were such a thing as an underwater freak show, then this would be it. Scientists from the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London have discovered a mysterious menagerie of marine megafauna deep in the Pacific Ocean, and dozens of the oddball creatures could be species that are unknown to science.

With the assistance of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) during the summer of 2018, scientists recovered 55 specimens lurking on the western edge of an abyss located between Hawaii and Mexico, roughly 16,400 feet (5,000 meters) below the sea surface. Of that assemblage of oceanic oddities, seven were recently confirmed to be newfound species; the researchers’ findings were published July 18 in the journal ZooKeys (opens in new tab).

While the eastern side of the abyss has been explored quite regularly, its western portion, which is known as the Pacific Clarion-Clipperton Zone and includes several nearby seamounts (underwater mountains), is less accessible and has therefore remained largely unexplored, making it a local bonus for discovering new species.

Chrysogorgia abludoa type of coral, is one of seven confirmed new species found during the expedition. (Image credit: DeepCCZ expedition, Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation & NOAA)

“About 150 years ago, the [HMS] Challenger Expedition explored this area, but as far as I know, there hasn’t been much study done since that time,” Guadalupe Bribiesca-Contreras, a NHM biologist in the life sciences department and the study’s lead author, told Live Science. “This part of the ocean has barely been touched.”

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