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Irish scientists discover new life beneath the sea

The discovery came during a 23-day mission out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

 First time ever seen by human eyes, the Moytirra vent field. Picture shows chimneys of metal sulphides (black and rust coloured) formed at 3,030 metres below sea level.
First time ever seen by human eyes, the Moytirra vent field. Picture shows chimneys of metal sulphides (black and rust coloured) formed at 3,030 metres below sea level.
Image: Marine.ie

A TEAM of scientists from Ireland have made a fascinating discovery – new life beneath the sea.

The VENTuRE team, which comprises marine scientists from University College Cork (Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences), the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway, Geological Survey of Ireland and University of Southampton and National Oceanography Centre in the UK, made the discoveries at the mid-Atlantic ridge in the Atlantic Ocean.

There, they spent 23 days investigating a newly-discovered hydrothermal vent ecosystem, using a remotely operated vehicle.

The team got the first proper glimpse at these vents, and found lots of new species living on them, such as a shrimp that sees in infra-red with a third eye.

On the official blog, the marine scientists described how work began.

Using their equipment, and aided by good weather, they were able to discover a new vent site.

On the Infomar blog, marine geologist Maria Judge explained:

Bellowing black smoke, these rust colored chimney structures have the capability of supporting a community of florescence microbial mats, shell fish, fish, crabs, shrimp and tube worms. Such fauna live solely on the sulphide-rich fluids emitted from the hydrothermal vents.

The team dredged for samples which they have taken home to further study.

UCC staff member Dr Andy Wheeler told the Irish Examiner:

Often the search for vents takes much longer and our success is testament to the hard work and skill of everyone on board.

Patrick Collins from NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute said:

Everyone on board is proud of this Irish discovery, which we have called the ‘Moytirra Vent Field. Moytirra is the name of a battlefield in Irish mythology, and appropriately means ‘Plain of the Pillars.’  The largest chimney we have found is huge – more than ten metres tall – and we have named it ‘Balor’ after a legendary giant.  In comparison with other vent fields, Moytirra contains some monstrous chimneys and is in an unusual setting at the bottom of a cliff—a real beauty.

A team from the National Geographic was on board filming the discovery for a future programme.

One of the deep-sea creatures will find itself with a rather unusual name – that of a secondary school student.

The Ryan Institute in NUI Galway held a competition to name one of the new discoveries after the pupil who designed the best deep sea creature from their own imagination.

Meanwhile, funding has been approved for the excavation of a Spanish Armada vessel that sank in the 16th century.

It is lying in shallow water off the coast of Donegal.

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