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Nekton's Discovery of 100+ New Species Around Bermuda Confirms a New Zone in the Ocean

OXFORD, England, May 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ --

Results from Nekton Mission I, the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey provides confirmation of a new zone in the ocean, the Rariphotic Zone (Rare Light Zone) from 130metres to 300metres.

The Rariphotic Zone is the fourth zone confirmed in the top 3000metres of the ocean, each defined by distinct biological communities living at different depths. The zones are the Altiphotic (0metre to 40metres), Mesophotic (40metres to 130metres), Rariphotic (130metres to 300metres), and Bathyal Zone (300metres to 3000metres).

Alex Rogers, Scientific Director of the Nekton Oxford Deep Ocean Research Institute ('Nekton'), Professor of Conservation Biology, University of Oxford, believes this discovery could challenge assumptions of biodiversity distribution including the number of different species in the ocean.

"If life in the shallower regions of the deep sea is so poorly documented, it undermines confidence in our existing understanding of how the patterns of life change with depth," says Professor Rogers.

Field research and analysis of 40,000 specimens and 15,000 litres of water samples was led by Nekton and supported by a network of scientists from 15 different marine research institutes. They revealed the discovery of over an estimated 100 new species including a major new black coral standing up to two metres high.

"We've discovered at least 13 new crustacean species including tanaids, gnathiid isopods and leptostracans," explains Professor Nick Schizas, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, who participated in the Mission.

"We believe we have discovered dozens of new species of algae including the deepest ever record to have had its DNA sequenced. Many are recognised for demonstrating a new biogeographical link between Bermuda and the Indo-Pacific," says Professor Craig Schneider, Trinity College, USA.

"Considering Bermuda's waters have been comparatively well studied for decades, we weren't expecting such a large number and diversity of new species," explains Professor Rogers. "It's evidence of how little we know and how important it is to document this unknown frontier to ensure that its future is protected."

The first peer-reviewed scientific papers have been published by Nekton with all results to be published by September 2018. 20 scientific papers are expected to be published in total. The first paper documented the deepest recorded evidence of lionfish globally to reveal the spread of this invasive species deeper into the ocean than previously known.

CEO of XL Bermuda Ltd/Insurance, Patrick Tannock, who chairs XL Catlin's philanthropic XL Foundation which funded the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey, says: "As a future-focused, innovative insurance and reinsurance company, we at XL Catlin believe that preparing for emerging and unknown risks is imperative. Given that there is still much to be learned about how changes to the ocean will impact businesses, communities and society in the future, we are extremely interested in the findings from the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey and look forward to receiving the published report of the amalgamated results and scientific papers."  

In March 2018, in the scientific journal Nature Scientific Reports, Dr. Carole Baldwin, Smithsonian Institute described the discovery of unique reef-fish communities living above the seabed between 130 and 309metres around the Caribbean island of Curacao that are taxonomically distinct from shallower animals. Lacking an existing name for this depth zone Dr. Baldwin proposed 'rariphotic'.

Results from the XL Catlin Deep Ocean Survey confirm that a similar zonation of life exists in the water column, providing additional evidence of this zonation within the biota of the seabed including corals, sponges and algae.

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