With its conspicuous blue eyes and shiny orange claws, this colorful crab seems hard to miss. But it's one of many species that had likely never been seen until scientists went exploring in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument this fall.
An international team of biologists made the discoveries in October during a three-week survey of a remote coral atoll called French Frigate Shoals. (See a printable map of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.)
In addition to this anemone hermit crab, scientists found several potentially new species of corals, sea stars, snails, and clams. The researchers discovered over a hundred species never before seen in French Frigate Shoals and many more that had never been recorded in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands or, in some cases, the entire Hawaiian island chain.
The finds highlight the diversity of life in the new national monument, which was established by presidential decree in June, creating the world's largest marine sanctuary.
"It's hoped that our work will heighten public appreciation and awareness of this unique area and lead to a better understanding of how we manage such large and sensitive marine areas," team member Joel Martin, of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, said in a press statement.
The expedition was conducted as part of the international Census of Marine Life and was led by NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
This red-white-and-blue shrimp was among the distinctive animals scientists found on a recent survey of French Frigate Shoals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Photographer Susan Middleton took this and many other pictures while accompanying the scientists on the three-week expedition. The researchers' findings, she said, offered up a world of inspiration—both scientific and artistic.
"It is not until you start looking through the macro lens at these organisms … that you start to see the vibrant colors, the fine hairs covering a crab's shell, the flecks of color in the translucent tentacles of an anemone, the incredible evolutionary adaptations for survival," she said in a statement.
"It is then that I realize how infinitely complex life is on a coral reef and how grateful I am to these scientists for helping me to see organisms that have spent millions of years evolving colors, shapes, and behaviors in order not to be seen."
Middleton, a grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, recently co-produced a photo feature on the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands for National Geographic magazine, as well as a companion book.
This purple sea star was one of the largest and most colorful new species collected by scientists during a recent survey in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
The animal's flamboyant hue and large size—about a foot (a third of a meter) long—suggest that it may have little to fear from predators. And unlike some of its sea-star relatives, this species is active during the day, giving biologists another hint that the creature may have few enemies in the ecosystem.
It's no mystery how this Hawaiian pom-pom crab got its nickname. But the crustacean, found during a recent census of ocean life in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, owes its "cheery" appearance to some unusual helpers. Its "pom-poms" are actually anemones, which the crab uses to wipe small organisms from the surface of coral reefs.
Although not new to science, this pom-pom crab is only found in the Hawaiian Islands.
Even the tiniest of creatures counted in the recent survey conducted in Hawaii's French Frigate Shoals—right down to this minuscule shrimp.
Measuring a mere 2 millimeters (0.07 inch), this as-yet-unnamed shrimp species features curiously oversized claws, which scientists think could be used for tasks ranging from attracting a mate to battling predators.
Experts are now studying the 2,500 specimens brought back by the research team to determine exactly how many new species were found. Even those that have been seen before could provide crucial clues to how life has developed in this isolated ecosystem, scientists say.
"The discovery phase has really only just begun," expedition member Joel Martin said. "In the coming months, and even over the next several years, we will be conducting … examinations … to further identify and classify these organisms, and possibly to shed some light on where these species originated. …
"[This] may provide insight into how the unique flora and fauna of French Frigate Shoals came to be."
* I have a dry sense of humour, any sarcasm that offends was not meant to do so.
* I am a sceptic at heart, however am open minded to new ideas and experiences
* If i dont reply ive probably lost track of the thread overnight and cannot be bothered to trawl through new posts