Sunday, January 18, 2009

We are still finding new species

Just in time to watch them go extinct. We don't even know if they taste delicious enough to hunt them into extermination!

The reef community at 2250 m depth in the Tasman Fracture Zone Marine Reserve. The large organism in the foreground is a gorgonian coral, while the smaller organisms attached to the rock around it are gorgonshead corals and deep-sea stalked barnacles. In the background can be seen a glass sponge (the object growing out on a stalk).
"SYDNEY (AFP) – Scientists said Sunday they had uncovered new marine animals in their search of previously unexplored Australian waters, along with a bizarre carnivorous sea squirt and ocean-dwelling spiders.

A joint US-Australian team spent a month in deep waters off the coast of the southern island of Tasmania to "search for life deeper than any previous voyage in Australian waters," lead researcher Ron Thresher said.

What they found were not only species new to science -- including previously undescribed soft corals -- but fresh indications of global warming's threat to the country's unique marine life.


"Modern-day deep-water coral reefs were also found, however, there is strong evidence that this reef system is dying, with most reef-forming coral deeper than 1,300 metres newly dead," he said.

Though close analysis of samples was still required, Thresher said modelling suggested ocean acidification could be responsible.

"If our analysis identifies this phenomenon as the cause of the reef system's demise, then the impact we are seeing now below 1,300 metres might extend to the shallower portions of the deep-reefs over the next 50 years, threatening this entire community," he said.

Rising sea temperatures are blamed on global warming caused by the build-up in the atmosphere of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide -- which is also blamed for higher acidity in sea water.

A UN report warned in 2007 that Australia's Great Barrier Reef, described as the world's largest living organism, could be killed by climate change within decades.

The World Heritage site and major tourist attraction, stretching over more than 345,000 square kilometres (133,000 square miles) off Australia's east coast, could become "functionally extinct", the report said.

If we'd just stop treating the ocean like it's a dump and respect the sea creatures who inhabit it, the human race just might not go extinct like everything else....

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