Researchers spot exotic creatures in marine national monument

Researchers spot exotic creatures in marine national monument

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A research vessel pulled into Honolulu Harbor on Monday, wrapping up an expedition to the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument.

The E/V Nautilus left from American Samoa about three weeks ago, carrying 27 scientists from across the country.

The team exploring marine life on ancient underwater volcanoes had some thrilling encounters.

A shape-shifting Deepstaria jelly had a small crustacean living inside its body.

“Inside we could see that little pink isopod, it’s a relative of the pillbug, and it measures maybe two to three inches in length,” said co-lead scientist Emil Petruncio. “We’re not sure of the relationship there. It doesn’t seem to be harming the jelly.”

The scientists also mapped the seafloor in the monument, which includes Johnston Atoll and Jarvis Island.

“The monument encompasses over 490,000 square miles of open ocean and seven islands across the Pacific,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service superintendent Kate Toniolo.

The remotely operated vehicles that were used by the researchers can dive to depths of about 4,000 meters.

“We dive those down to the areas that we mapped and we are able to then document what we’ve just discovered and collect samples of the geology and the biology, and help us to characterize the marine environment,” said expedition leader Dwight Coleman of Ocean Exploration Trust.

Another highlight of the expedition was the sighting of a Cirrotheutid octopus on the volcanic slopes of Baker Island.

“These are habitats that make up the largest parts of our planet so the most habitable space is in the deep sea,” said co-lead scientist Alexis Weinnig. “What we’re finding is that every time we go down, we find more and more signs of life.”

Copyright 2019 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.