Chance discovery could be unique to whale bone habitat A new species of bug, similar in appearance to the common woodlouse, has been found plastered all over a whale carcass on the floor of the deep Southern Ocean. Scientists say that Jaera tyleri is the first in its genus to be found in the southern hemisphere, and may be unique to the whale bone habitat.
The bones themselves are a remarkable chance discovery. They were spotted on a live video feed, beamed to scientists aboard the RRS James Cook from a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on the sea floor. The UK researchers were searching the depths for hydrothermal vents, or ‘black smokers’, when they stumbled upon the remains.
‘It was a complete surprise,’ says Dr Katrin Linse of NERC’s British Antarctic Survey, who led the study on Jaera tyleri. ‘We were all really thrilled. You could never hope to find a whale fall on purpose – it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.’ – ‘It gave us a rare opportunity to look at the ecology of these unique habitats, and which sorts of species settle on them.’ – ‘After spotting them on the cameras, we used the robotic arm of the ROV to pull a few of the bones up to the ship to examine them more closely.’ – ‘They were absolutely covered in these little critters — there were 500 to 6,000 specimens per square metre.’ Edited from New critter discovered on whale carcass