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Scientists hope to find new sea life on deep sea voyage

Thursday 17 Jan 2013 2:49 p.m.

Scientists are hoping to identify new species of sea life (file)

Scientists are hoping to identify new species of sea life (file)

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Scientists setting off from Wellington on a new voyage of discovery will use baited cameras to film species in the deep waters of the Kermadec Trench.

The scientists from the University of Aberdeen, NIWA and Te Papa museum will also collect fish and crustacean samples from the trench northeast of New Zealand.

Voyage leader Dr Alan Jamieson, from the University of Aberdeen, says they'll be concentrating observations at depths between 2000m and 8000m where there has been limited previous research.

"The results from this research will contribute further to the understanding of life in the deepest places on Earth and provide a greater understanding of deep-sea community structure and its function," he says, ahead of tomorrow's departure on the NIWA research ship Kaharoa.

The scientists will attach bait to four "hadal landers" to attract animals, which are then filmed by a high-resolution video camera.

They hope to find and film more of the supergiant amphipods discovered on their voyage last summer. These crustaceans are 28cm long but earned their "supergiant" status because they dwarf standard deep sea amphipods.

"We aim to get live video footage of the supergiant amphipod to see its behaviour, such as what speeds it can swim at, and to find out more about its physiology," Dr Jamieson says.

"There's something obviously unique about its physiology, as it's 10 times larger than other amphipods. We also hope to collect a few more specimens, to work out why the supergiant is so large."

NIWA principal scientist Dr Malcolm Clark says the trip is also hoped to capture some deep-sea fish that are new to science by using a large baited trap.

"We have seen unknown species on camera during the 2011 voyage, but we haven't captured any, and so cannot put a name to them."

NZN

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