The new captain of the Endurance Shipwreck is an anemone

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The new captain of the Endurance Shipwreck is an anemone

Hugh Griffiths, a marine biogeographer with the British Antarctic Survey, was eating pancakes when news broke that the wreck of the Endurance – a ship made famous by Ernest Shackleton that sank in an expedition in 1915 – had been discovered.

Dr. Griffiths found himself more interested in the footage than in his breakfast. His first thought was that the ship looked almost fake, given how ancient it was still 106 years after it sank to the bottom of the Weddell Sea near Antarctica. His second thought: What was living on it?

Over the years, the ship had become as green as a garden. In twitter thread, Dr. Griffiths zoomed in on footage of the wreck to see the creatures he had identified: anemones, sponges, sea squirrels, sea stars and a lemon-yellow sea lily. Other tenants were more mysterious – white tendrils, translucent drops and a mysterious wing shaped Creature.

Christopher Month, a sea star researcher at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, said he expects a “rich bonus of critters living in and among the Endurance wreck.” In the deep sea, where food is scarce and the landscape is mostly muddy mud, a shipwreck is precious real estate.

According to Lewis Allcock, a zoologist at the National University of Ireland Galway, the wreck provides insight into the types of life in the Weddell Sea that live on rigid structures. “A lot of work has happened in the Weddell Sea, but mostly on a softer bottom,” Dr. Allcock said. “There is a chance that there are new species, if only because of a lack of appearance,” she said.

When Katrin Linsey, a marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey, scanned footage of the wreck in her office, she admired anemones, insects, sponges and even a bright red amphipod, probably one in the genus Eurysthenes. species, which was swimming away. Wreckage Then he saw something astonishing, surrounded by a porthole. “There’s a crab in there,” said Dr. Linsey. “It shouldn’t be there.”

Dr. Linsey, who helped discover the first hydrothermal vent in the Southern Ocean, is eyeing white crabs. Ghostly white creatures in deep-sea soil may indicate the presence of vents nearby.

Dr. Linsey sent a message to Dr. Griffiths asking why he didn’t tell her about the crab.

He had completely missed the animal, its appearance in the video only as a long white spot. A crab may be mundane in many places, but a crab has never been seen before in the Weddell Sea. When Dr. Linsey watched the video again, she found three more crabs.

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The general absence of decapods — which include shrimp, crabs and lobsters — in the Antarctic “has been polar biologists for so many years,” said researcher Paula Rodriguez Flores, who studied deep-sea squat lobsters at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. an email.

Scientists at one time estimated that decapod crabs were driven out of Antarctica millions of years ago and have recently returned due to climate change, so “crabs in the Antarctic are still very exciting to discover,” Dr. . linsey said

Dr. Griffiths wondered whether the crab seen on the wreck might be a species in the family Kividae, which includes a hairy white yeti crab that migrated out of the Antarctic. But a closer look revealed that the crustacean was not a crab, but a deep-sea squat lobster in the genus Munidopsis, Dr. Rodriguez Flores said.

Only one squat lobster species has been recorded in Antarctic waters. “It is definitely a different species,” she said, adding that a closer examination would establish its identity.

The appearance of crustaceans opens up many new questions. “How did they get there?” Dr. Lynsey asked. “Is this a new species of Munidopsis?” Dr. Rodriguez Flores asked. “Is it eating the ship?” Dr. Griffiths asked.

Although the crab is probably free to whine about stamina, many of the ship’s other inhabitants are passive feeders such as crinoids, glass sponges, and anemones. Dr. Griffiths said these creatures are probably subsistence on a sprinkling of waste called sea ice, which contains a lot of krill feces. The ship’s height above sea level allows it to take advantage of water currents to feed these largely sedentary creatures, Dr. Mah said.

Although the quality of the video precludes a closer identification of many of these species, some residents were notably standing near the wheel of the ship. Dr. Maah identified a snake’s six-armed sea star as a bracingid sea star, either Freeastera or Belgisella. These stars extend their backbones into the water to catch small crustaceans and other food, he said.

Scientists are divided on whether a Creature Sitting near the wheel—which resembles the feathers of an ostrich crossed with a Christmas tree—is a hydroid, or a black coral. Dr. Allcock is the team hydroid, noting that the stem did not appear straight enough for the black coral. Joan J., a researcher at the University of Bergen in Norway. Soto Engel said it did not resemble hydroids so deeply known, but added that he was “100 percent sure there would be several species of hydroids growing on the debris.”

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The Endurance wreck is considered a historical monument under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty. “No one is allowed to touch it,” Dr. Griffiths said. Still, the high-resolution video could help scientists determine which species live on the debris, and if any of them are new.

For Estefania Rodriguez, curator of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, which studies anemones, clear videos may not be enough for species identification. Stamina is studded with erect stalks of anemones, ranging from thick white to thin orange ones. But many anemone species look alike from the outside, which means researchers need to uncover them to identify them.

“After more than 20 years of studying this group, if someone shows me a picture and asks what it is, I can only say ‘anemone,'” Dr. Rodriguez said. “It’s not because I’m useless at my job.”

With extreme caution, Dr. Rodriguez suggested that the plump white anemones belong to the Actinostolide family and the orange ones to the family Hormatidae.

Although Dr. Rodriguez was delighted to see the wreckage, she was even more delighted to see the hull of an old ship dominated by anemones, which she said were educated animals. “The group is about 600 million years old. That’s what fascinates me,” said Dr. Rodriguez. “How They Cope: They’re Tough Things.”

For now, it’s hard to say how old Endurance’s invertebrates are—how many went away 106 years ago, or as recently as soon after its sinking. But glass sponges can live for thousands of years and anemones for many decades.

Visible in the video, the largest living thing behind the wheel of endurance is the anemone (species unknown).

“The old crew came alive, and this is what has gone in,” Dr. Griffiths said. “Who knows where that sea anemone is taking him?”

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