Space may be humanity’s final frontier, but there are still plenty of alien discoveries to be made right here on Earth — primarily in the depths of our deep blue seas. This is evidenced by the fact that scientists are often finding previously undiscovered species in the ocean, such as the new species of feather star that have been found in the Antarctic Sea. While trawling for the sea for the animal, also known as Promachocrinus, they dredged up a new, large 20-armed species that has been dubbed Promachocrinus fragarius, or the Antarctic strawberry feather star (via Yahoo! News).
Researchers discovered a new 20-armed species, Promachocrinus fragarius aka the Antarctic strawberry feather star, in the Antarctic Sea.
The Antarctic strawberry feather star has 20 appendages that stem from its main strawberry-like body and can range in color from purple to dark red. The creature has two different sets of appendages — ones that are short and have a bumpier texture and others that are long with a more feathery texture. The new species was found in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean at depths roughly between 215 feet and 3,840 feet.
The research team, which consisted of Emily McLaughlin, Nerida Wilson, and Greg Rouse, also found three more new species of Antarctic feather star during their survey. These research expeditions took place primarily between 2008 and 2017. The 20-armed species were amongst the biggest they found, but the precise measurements weren’t provided.
These animals are classified as crinoids, and any crinoid that lacks a stalk is categorized as a feather star.
While these species of feather stars were unique because of their location and their size, there certainly isn’t a lack of these creatures in the sea. These animals are classified as crinoids, and any crinoid that lacks a stalk is categorized as a feather star. The number of arms for the species was also unique, as most other members of this family have around five arms.
Interestingly, feather stars are most abundant in rocky, shallow waters and can primarily be found from the Indian Ocean to Japan. These Antarctic-dwelling species seem to prefer colder and deeper waters. Perhaps the additional limbs could be used to help them traverse these greater depths and more easily catch prey where it might be less abundant than the prey that is available to its cousins in shallower waters.
Feather stars can come in a wide variety of different hues, and they can also have as many as 200 arms. So the species with 20 arms certainly won’t hold the record for most appendages. Still, the overall size must be noteworthy if it was categorized as large since most members of the genus aren’t very big at all — typically less than 12 inches in length.
The sheer abundance of feather stars located around the world means that there are probably numerous species that have yet to be discovered. They can thrive in just about any ocean temperature and can live at depths from shallow to fairly deep, so there are bound to be more strange and unique species to find underneath the depths. It’ll be interesting to see more undiscovered species from this family and how they differ from the other feather stars that have been found so far.