A population of rare benthic siphonophores, which are related to coral and jellyfish, has been found along a 17,000-year-old drowned Western Australian coastline that’s now more than 400 feet underwater.
During a recent voyage in the Kimberley Marine Park, scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science discovered fields of siphonophores on the ocean floor. This marks one of the first records of this group in Australian waters.
Benthic siphonophores are underwater predators that use a web of tentacles — like a giant underwater spider web that uses light and motion — to lure prey.
Project leader Karen Miller was heading the expedition on board the AIMS Research Vessel Solander when her team made the unusual discovery.
“These creatures are generally found in deep water down to 3,000 meters (about 9,840 feet), and are rarely ever seen, hence why our observation in depths of 100 meters to 150 meters (328 feet to 492 feet) is so exciting,” Miller said in a statement on Thursday.
There have been no other benthic siphonophores recorded in Western Australian waters.
“We have been working with an international taxonomist and we think these siphonophores are likely to be a species of Archangelopsis,” Miller added.
To properly identify this species, Miller and her team will need to collect specimens and work with taxonomists to determine if it’s indeed a new species.