Census of Marine Life-affiliated scientists, plumbing the secrets of a vast underwater mountain range south of New Zealand, captured the first images of a novel “Brittlestar City” established against daunting odds on the peak of a seamount – an underwater summit taller than the world’s tallest building.
Its cramped starfish-like inhabitants, tens of millions living arm tip to arm tip, owe their success to the seamount’s shape and to the swirling circumpolar current flowing over and around it at roughly four kilometers per hour. It allows Brittlestar City’s underwater denizens to capture passing food simply by raising their arms, and it sweeps away fish and other hovering would-be predators.
Discovery of this marine metropolis, announced today along with important new insights into seamount geology and physics, highlighted a month-long April expedition to survey the Macquarie Ridge aboard the Research Vessel Tangaroa of New Zealand’s National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, host of the Census of Marine Life seamount programme, CenSeam. The voyage was largely funded by the New Zealand Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.