By Brian Myers | Published
Researchers in Japan recently revealed unusual haul from one of the darkest depths of the sea. The black eggs, which were supposedly laid by flatworms, were removed from the Kuril-Kumchatka trench in the northwestern Pacific Ocean. The eggs and the creatures that lay them are some of the many mysterious forms of marine life that have evolved to exist at depths exceeding 20,000 feet under the sea.
The expert research team extracted the black eggs from the murky depths and used remote-controlled recovery vehicles. At astonishing depths, they discovered the eggs attached to pieces of rock, successfully extracted them and removed them. Hokkaido University researcher Keiichi Kakui wasn’t entirely sure what the team had discovered, but he was surprised to learn what these jet-black eggs contained.
The black eggs contained an impressive number of flatworm embryos.
A DNA analysis of the black eggs soon provided researchers with an unexpected discovery. Inside the small capsules were flatworm embryos in different stages of development. Surprisingly, this was the first time these eggs were found at this depth, breaking the 17,000 depths they were previously found to survive.
While the discovery of the black eggs really surprised Japanese researchers, it shouldn’t be a big surprise when scientists discover a species that lives in previously unknown parts.
Carefully opening the eggs, a milky white liquid oozed out from inside. Each egg contained multiple flatworm embryos, three to seven per dissected specimen. A rather impressive amount, considering the black eggs only measured about a tenth of an inch in diameter.
What is even more shocking is what the DNA analysis revealed. These flatworms are close cousins of those we find every day on the Earth’s surface. Scientists believe that flatworms living in shallow waters may have moved, over time, to deeper waters, paving the way for the species that researchers recovered from incredible depths.
The researchers found the black eggs thousands of feet below what they thought was the flatworm limit.
The mysteries of the deepest parts of the oceans are slowly being solved, although scientists will admit that what is currently known falls far short of understanding everything that lies in the abyss. While the discovery of the black eggs surprised Japanese researchers, they shouldn’t be too surprised when scientists discover a species that lives in previously unknown parts.
Marine scientists widely believe that there could be up to two million different species of life in the salt waters that cover most of the Earth’s surface. Currently, science has only identified approximately 250,000 of them. Identifying flatworms and their black eggs shows how much there is to learn about the deep ocean.
The newly identified species from the deepest parts of the ocean are not limited to small flatworm eggs, tiny crustaceans and various amoebas. Giant squid were once believed to be marine fiction until these giant sea monsters were captured. In 2021, Japanese scientists successfully identified a previously undiscovered 55-pound slipperyhead fish. The large fish was aptly named “Yokozuna”, in honor of the highest rank in sumo wrestling.
Fountain: Biology Letters of the Royal Society