We tend to think the days of discovery here on earth are over. We’ve mapped the continents and put heroic explorers out of business. The frontier is closed. We tend to think that, but it’s not necessarily true. Most of our planet Earth is ocean and the ocean is deep and strange and largely unexplored. The South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition exemplifies the mysterious nature of our oceans. The 2018 deep sea study conducted by the National University of Singapore and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences discovered dozens of new sea creatures in a remote and unexplored area of the Indian ocean.
Usually discoveries of “sea monsters” are let downs. Maybe it’s a weird colored shrimp barely bigger than your little finger, or an old and haggard goldfish that escaped the tyranny of a fishbowl somewhere. The deep sea animals discovered by the biodiversity expedition are a bit more impressive than that, and they come with monstrous sounding nicknames as well: Darth Vader Isopod, the spider crab, the chainsaw lobster.
While scientists do have a tendency to get overzealous on the nicknames, these animals are bizarre looking. The “Darth Vader Isopod,” for example, is a bleached-grey deep sea cockroach larger than a human head. The chainsaw lobster has one massively over-sized claw that looks much like a chainsaw (doubtful that there’s a combustion engine attached to it, however). Also found were multiple new species of hermit crabs, a new species of squid called a “cock-eyed squid” for its one bulging eye, prawns, and invertebrates encompassing all definitions of “weird.”
Here’s a picture of a spider crab looking like it crawled out of H.P. Lovecraft’s basement:
Researchers from NUS and @lipiindonesia have already identified more than 12 NEW species of deep-sea creatures from over 12,000 specimens collected during the recent #SJADES2018 South Java Deep-Sea Biodiversity Expedition. #NUSGlobal #NUSResearch @lkcnhm https://t.co/ahRoPKkdcc
— NUS (@NUSingapore) April 19, 2018
Seven of the newly discovered animals from the preliminary reports in April:
7 Bizarre #DeepSeaCreatures Discovered In Indonesian Waters. Scientists from the South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition 2018 have released preliminary findings from their 14-day exploration of the #deepsea off the coast of #WestJavahttps://t.co/11eWRrB3lF pic.twitter.com/Ek3Erudcp8
— Earth Is Our Home (@Gaia_Pedia) April 4, 2018
You can see a large collection of pictures of the newly discovered sea creatures at the BBC.
The researchers from the National University of Singapore and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences had no idea what to expect when they set out. The region of the Indian ocean off the coast of Java had not been previously surveyed for deep sea animals, and the expedition surveyed 63 sites as they sailed from Jakarta on Java’s northwest tip to Cilacap Town on the southern coast.
They hoped to find something, but the team was not prepared for the treasure trove of undiscovered species awaiting them. It’s a discovery that further deepens the mystery of deep sea life.
Peter Ng, a crab expert and professor at NUS, says:
“[The discovery]tells us that there are things happening in that part of Indonesia that we don’t know.”
Although the expedition is over, the work of scientists has just begun. The research team brought back 12,000 deep sea creatures belonging to more than 800 different species. Now the scientists’ job is to carry out in-depth and detailed studies of the horde of sea creatures. Ng says that the work of the South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition has paved the way for years of further research and discovery. Their full findings will be released to the public in 2020.