The world is an ever-changing place. New to science, species are discovered all the time. What do I mean by new to science? It means these are species that may have been around for millions of years, but scientists are either now noticing them by exploring the depths of the ocean or coral reefs they inhabit more thoroughly, OR they may have recently evolved.
Since these creatures have not previously been recorded it is hard to tell how long they have been around. Commonly, new to science species have been around for a while and are already known by the locals, such as in the recent case of a primate called the lesula (right), or the 1938 discovery in Africa of a species of fish thought to be long extinct, the Coelocanth (below), which was also found in Indonesia in 1997. Exploring the earth, especially the ocean is a tough job and it is estimated that anywhere between one to two-thirds of all marine species remain undiscovered by science, including some whales and dolphins!
Even more astonishing, and a fact that many people often forget about, is that our planet is made up of constantly shifting plates. What does this have to do with the ocean? Did you know that some major plates occur under the ocean and create giant mountain ranges under the sea?
For example the Mid Atlantic Ridge (shown above); a constantly growing underwater mountain range created by the separation of the North American and Eurasian plates in the North Atlantic, and the South American and African plates in the South Atlantic. The volcanic activity from this ridge has been credited with the creation of deep sea hydrothermal vents along with the creation of a new island in Iceland, Surtsey in 1963. Volcanic activity is a normal occurrence along the ridge, but it can happen in other less “active” places.
On December 23rd 2012 NASA satellite images first noticed a new landmass in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen (right). By January 15th the undersea volcano stopped erupting and a new island was born. Based on the barren, dry and hot conditions of it’s neighboring islands, the new one is not predicted to harbor much, if any life, however as the earth has showed us time and time again, never underestimate it’s powers.
What does this mean for marine science and conservation?
A new island like this presents an opportunity for scientists to study something completely new over time. Scientists jumped at the opportunity to watch the island of Surtsey progress over time, noting that the first colonists were from the sea! Even though the new islands climate is predicted to be unsuitable for life, there is no telling what will happen in the sea. A new island like this creates potential habitat for a whole new community of organisms like sponges, corals, and algae, which in turn attract fish and invertebrates.
Conservationists are constantly being bombarded with new species and on occasion a new island to consider in their planning. The world is an ever changing place, and so is the science of conservation. New species and a new island are just a few humble reminders from our earth that nothing is set in stone, and there is always something new to discover or protect for future generations.
What has been one of your favorite new discoveries? What, if any, impact did this discovery have on conservation and marine science? Share in our comment section below!