What is that thing?
The shipwreck of the Endurance, lost to the icy Antarctic waters of the Weddell Sea for more than 100 years, just keeps giving.
This week, the New York Times reported that the newest captain of the ship seems to be a large anemone perched on the well-preserved deck, but other scientists have also discovered species of marine life that shouldn’t be anywhere near the wreck. They may have also discovered an entirely new species.
While observing footage captured by the undersea drone that team Endurance22 used to find the wreck, a zoologist at the National University of Ireland Galway told the Times that most of the sea bottom in the area is soft and relatively featureless. The ship provided a new environment that Dr. Louise Allcock said may be harboring animals never seen before.
“There’s been lots of work in the Weddell Sea but mostly on soft bottoms,” Allcock told the paper. “There is a chance there are new species, if only because of a lack of looking.”
Sure enough, Katrin Linse, a marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey, noticed a ghostly white creature perched on the ship’s porthole. She knew immediately it wasn’t supposed to be there. Linse initially thought the animal was a crab, but the Antarctic is largely devoid of decapods, which include shrimp, crabs and lobsters.
The image below shows the animal in a screenshot taken from an official Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust Tik Tok.
Turns out, the animal is a a deep-sea squat lobster. That’s significant because there’s only one type of recorded squat lobster in the Antarctic, and scientists think it returned after a hiatus lasting millions of years. Climate change allowed that lobster to move back into the zone, but scientists who observed this animal also say it’s a totally new kind of lobster.
“This is for sure a different species,” Paula Rodríguez Flores, a researcher studying deep-sea squat lobsters at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, told the Times.
It’s awful to think about how Endurance met its fate, although Shackleton and his 27 crew survived the initial crash. We’d like to think that somehow, the explorer knows his Antarctic expedition isn’t over. He’s still giving the community new creatures and important questions to ponder.
Updated to correctly identify the size of the crew.
More on new species: Experts Say That Those Giant Spiders Falling From the Sky Are Good, Actually