Scientists aboard a research vessel near Antarctica pulled their nets out of the chilly ocean water. Among their catch, they found a 20-armed creature with a distinctive body shape. It’s a new species.
Researchers trawled the Southern Ocean on several research expeditions between 2008 and 2017, according to a study published July 14 in the journal Invertebrate Systematics. They were searching for a group of “cryptic” sea animals known as Promachocrinus, or Antarctic feather stars.
Antarctic feather stars are “large” animals that can live anywhere from about 65 feet to about 6,500 feet underwater and have an “otherworldly appearance” when swimming, researchers said. Although both are invertebrate ocean animals, feather stars are distinct from more well-known sea stars.
During their surveys, researchers collected eight feather stars with a distinctive body shape and discovered a new species: Promachocrinus fragarius, or the Antarctic strawberry feather star.
The Antarctic strawberry feather star has 20 arms branching off its central “strawberry-like” body, the study said. It can range in color from “purplish” to “dark reddish.” Researchers did not provide measurements of the animal’s overall size.
Photos show the new species has two types ofappendages. Its lower, shorter arms appear almost striped and bumpy, while its upper, longer arms appear almost feathered and soft.
A close-up photo shows the Antarctic strawberry feather star’s lower body. It has a roughly triangular shape, wider at the top and tapering toward a rounded bottom tip. The texture appears bumpy with circle-like indents likely left from broken-off arms.
Researchers named the new species after the Latin word for “strawberry” because of the “resemblance of the (body) shape… to a strawberry.”
The Antarctic strawberry feather star was found throughout the Southern Ocean from depths ranging from about 215 feet to about 3,840 feet, researchers said.
The new species was identified based on its body shape and DNA analysis, the study said.
The research team included Emily McLaughlin, Nerida Wilson and Greg Rouse. Researchers also documented several other species of Anatarctic feather star, including three more new species.