Scientists aboard a research ship near Antarctica pulled their nets from the frigid ocean waters. Among their catches, they find a 20-armed creature with a distinct body shape.
It’s a new kind.
The researchers tracked Antarctic Ocean on various research missions between 2008 and 2017, according to a study published July 14 in the journal invertebrate systematics. They were searching for a group of “hidden” marine animals known as bromatcorinusor Antarctic feather stars.
According to the researchers, Antarctic feather stars are “large” animals that can live at depths between 65 feet and 6,500 feet and have an “otherworldly appearance” when they swim. Although both are invertebrate oceanic animals, feather stars differ from the more common sea stars.
During their study, the researchers collected eight feather stars with a distinct body shape and discovered a new species: Promachocrinus fragariusor the Antarctic Strawberry Feather Star.
According to the study, the Strawberry Feather Star in Antarctica has 20 arms branching out from its central body “in the shape of a strawberry.” Its color can vary from “violet” to “dark reddish”. The researchers did not provide measurements of the animal’s total size.
Pictures show that the new species has two types of appendages. Its shorter lower arms appear streaked and almost puffy, while the longer arms appear feathered and almost smooth.
A close-up image shows the lower body of the Antarctic Strawberry Feather Star. It is roughly triangular in shape, wider at the top and tapering to a rounded lower tip. The texture appears irregular, with circular indentations likely left by broken arms.
The researchers named the new species after the Latin word for “strawberry” because of the “similarity of (body) shape… to a strawberry.”
According to researchers, the Antarctic Strawberry Feather Star is found throughout the Southern Ocean, from depths of about 215 feet to about 3,840 feet.
Identification of the new species was based on its body shape and analysis of its DNA, according to the study.
The investigative team consisted of Emily McLaughlin, Nerida Wilson, and Greg Ross. The researchers also documented other species of Antarctic feather star, including three other new species.
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