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New species of sea cucumbers

Figure A: This red peniagone, collected on the G.O. Sars-cruise 2004, is new to science.  
At least four new species of sea cucumbers (holothurians) has been discovered among the extensive collection of benthic invertebrates gathered on the G.O. Sars cruise last summer. One of these new species is a beautiful red-coloured holothurian, with unusually long papillae on its back.

By Andrey Gebruk

The G.O. Sars cruise MAR-ECO last summer has gathered on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge an extensive collection of benthic invertebrates. Holothurians, or sea cucumbers, were among most numerous of them. They were the subject of a focused study by Andrey Gebruk (P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Moscow) during his 4-week visit to the Museum of Zoology, University of Bergen in March 2005.

Four new species in th rich collection of sea cucumbers

Sea cucumbers appeared to be not only abundant but also one of the most diverse (or species-rich) groups in the MAR-ECO collection. In total, 37 species were identified, and at least four of them appeared to be new to science.

Figure B: This swimming peniagone was filmed during the dives with the russian MIR-submersibles.  
One of these new species is a beautiful red-coloured holothurian, with unusually long papillae on its back. It was photographed from submersible MIR in the Charlie-Gibbs Fracture Zone at 3000 m depth a year before the MAR-ECO expedition (Fig.A). Besides the unusual appearance, this holothurian is able to swim, and does it very graciously, the feature also observed on the MIR-dive (Fig. B).

Results of this piece of work were taken back to Moscow and will be the subject of further study, to look at the patterns of benthic invertebrates distribution along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

Analyses ROV-videos

Beside the work with the collection, Andrey Gebruk and Elena Krylova (also P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology) examined the videotapes recorded on the MAR-ECO cruise during dives of the ROVs Bathysaurus and Aglantha. In total tapes from seven dives were analysed. The Moscow team focused specifically on the diversity and abundance of fauna living on soft sediments, whereas diversity of fish and fauna associated with deep-sea coral reefs will be the subject of a parallel study by two groups from Bergen. Results of these studies will be available later in the year.

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