New captain of the sunken ship Endurance became an anemone

(ORDO NEWS) — Hugh Griffiths, a marine biogeographer with the British Antarctic Survey, was eating pancakes when news came that the wreck of the Endurance, Ernest Shackleton’s famous ship that sank during an expedition in 1915, had been discovered.

Dr. Griffiths turned out to be much more interested in personnel than in his breakfast. His first thought was that the ship looked almost fake, considering how eerily intact it was 106 years after it sank to the bottom of the Weddell Sea near Antarctica. Second thought: What lived on it?

Over the years, the ship has become as lush as a garden. On Twitter, Dr. Griffiths zoomed in on the wreck to highlight the recognizable creatures: anemones, sponges, sea worms, starfish and the lemon yellow sea lily. Other inhabitants were more mysterious – white tendrils, transparent clots, and a mysterious creature in the form of feathers.

Christopher Mach, starfish researcher at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, said he expects “a rich abundance of life in and among the wreck of the Endurance.” In the depths of the sea, where food is scarce and the landscape is mostly mushy silt, a sunken ship is valuable real estate.

According to Louise Alcock, a zoologist at the National University of Ireland in Galway, the wreck provides insight into the life in the Weddell Sea that lives on solid structures.

“A lot of work has been done in the Weddell Sea, but mostly on soft bottoms,” Dr. Allcock said. “There is a possibility of new species appearing, if only because of the lack of search,” she added.

When Catherine Linse, a marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey, scanned footage from the wreck in her office, she marveled at the anemones, worms, sponges and even a bright red amphipod, possibly a species of the genus Eurythenes, that swam far from the wreck.

Then she noticed something absolutely amazing sitting by the porthole. “There’s a crab,” Dr. Lins said. “He shouldn’t be there.”

Dr. Lins, who helped discover the first hydrothermal vents in the Southern Ocean, is partial to white crabs. These ghostly white creatures in deep sea mud may indicate the presence of vents nearby.

Dr. Lyns texted Dr. Griffiths, asking why he didn’t tell her about the crab.

He did not notice this animal at all, his presence on the video was only a white speck on the leg. In many places, crab may be a common sight, but it has never been sighted in the Weddell Sea before. When Dr. Lins looked at the footage again, she found three more crabs.

The general absence of decapods – shrimp, crabs and lobsters – in Antarctica “has intrigued polar biologists for many years,” Paula Rodriguez Flores, a researcher who studies deep-sea squat lobsters at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, said in an email.

At one time, scientists hypothesized that decapod crabs were pushed out of Antarctica millions of years ago and only recently returned due to climate change, so “crabs in Antarctica are still a very interesting find,” said Dr Lins.

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Dr. Griffiths wondered if the crab seen on the wreck could be a species from the Kiwaidae family, which includes the hairy white yeti crab that lives off the vents of Antarctica. But upon closer inspection, it turned out that the crustacean is not a crab, but a deep-sea squat lobster from the genus Munidopsis, Dr. Rodriguez Flores said.

Only one species of squat lobster has been recorded in Antarctic waters. “It’s definitely a different species,” she said, adding that a closer examination would allow it to be identified.

The presence of this crustacean opens up many new questions. “How did they get there?” Dr. Lins asked. “Is this a new species of Munidopsis?”. asked Dr. Rodriguez Flores. “It’s eating the ship?” asked Dr. Griffiths.

Although the crab supposedly roams the Endurance freely, many of the ship’s other inhabitants are passive feeders, such as crinoids, glass sponges, and anemones.

According to Dr. Griffiths, these creatures most likely feed on a waste called sea snow, which here contains a lot of krill excrement. Elevating the ship above the seabed allows these virtually immobile creatures to use water currents for food, Dr. Mach said.

Although the quality of the video does not allow many of these species to be identified, some of the inhabitants stood out, especially near the ship’s helm.

Dr. Mach identified the serpentine six-armed starfish as a Brisingida starfish, either Freyastera or Belgicella. These stars extend their spiny arms into the water to catch small crustaceans and other food, he added.

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Scholars disagree whether the creature resembling an ostrich feather crossed with a Christmas tree is a hydroid or black coral sitting near the wheel. Dr. Alcock is of the opinion that it is a hydroid, noting that the stem does not look straight enough for a black coral.

Joan J. Soto Angel, a researcher at the University of Bergen in Norway, said it didn’t look like hydroids known at such depths, but added that he was “100 percent sure there are several types of hydroids growing on the wreck.”

Under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty, the wreck of the Endurance is considered a historical monument. “No one is allowed to touch him,” said Dr. Griffiths. However, higher-resolution video could help scientists determine which species live on the wreck and whether they are new.

For Estefania Rodriguez, an anemone curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a clearer video may not be enough to identify the species.

Endurance is littered with tentacle-like anemone stems, ranging from thick whites to thinner oranges. But many anemone species look the same, so researchers have to cut them open to identify them.

“After more than 20 years of studying this group, if someone shows me a photo and asks what it is, I can only say “anemone,” says Dr. Rodriguez. “It’s not because I’m useless in my work.”

With extreme caution, Dr. Rodriguez suggested that the thick white anemone belonged to the Actinostolidae family, while the orange anemones belonged to the Hormathiidae family.

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While Dr. Rodriguez was pleased that the wreck had been found, she was even happier to see that the old ship’s hull was dominated by anemones, which she says are little-studied animals. “This group is about 600 million years old. That’s what fascinates me,” Dr. Rodriguez said. “How They Survive: They’re Tough Creatures.”

It’s hard to tell just how old the Endurance’s invertebrate crew is – how many of them settled shortly after the sinking 106 years ago or more recently. But glass sponges can live for thousands of years, while anemones can live for many decades.

Judging by what is seen in the video, the largest living creature at the controls of the Endurance is an anemone (species not identified).

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“The old crew left alive, but who settled here,” – said Dr. Griffiths. “Who knows where this sea anemone will take?”

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