Aboard a research ship near Antarctica, scientists hauled up their nets from the chilly ocean waters, revealing an intriguing discovery. Among their catch was a unique creature with 20 arms and a distinct body shape, previously unknown to science.
These researchers conducted multiple expeditions in the Southern Ocean between 2008 and 2017, as detailed in a study published on July 14 in the journal Invertebrate Systematics. Their focus was on uncovering a group of enigmatic sea creatures referred to as Promachocrinus, or Antarctic feather stars.
Antarctic feather stars, described as “sizeable” organisms, inhabit depths ranging from approximately 65 feet to 6,500 feet beneath the water’s surface. When they swim, they exude an “alien-like appearance,” setting them apart from more commonly recognized marine animals like sea stars.
Throughout their survey efforts, the scientists managed to procure eight feather stars characterized by a peculiar body shape. This led to the revelation of a previously unidentified species: Promachocrinus fragarius, also known as the Antarctic strawberry feather star.
The newly identified Antarctic strawberry feather star boasts a central body resembling that of a “strawberry,” from which extends 20 arms. Colors of this creature can vary from shades of “purplish” to “dark reddish,” though exact measurements of its size were not provided in the study.
Photographs of the newfound species depict it as possessing two distinct types of appendages. The lower, shorter arms exhibit a striped and bumpy texture, while the upper, longer arms appear feathered and soft in contrast.
A close-up photo reveals the lower part of the Antarctic strawberry feather star. Its shape is akin to a triangle, wider at the top and tapering to a rounded bottom. The surface looks textured with circular indents, likely marks from broken arms.
Scientists named this new species after the Latin word for “strawberry,” owing to the similarity in body shape. The Antarctic strawberry feather star was spotted all over the Southern Ocean, dwelling at depths ranging from about 215 to 3,840 feet.
Identification was based on both body structure and DNA analysis, as outlined in the study.
The research trio, consisting of Emily McLaughlin, Nerida Wilson, and Greg Rouse, not only made this discovery but also documented three more novel Antarctic feather star species.