Just off the coast of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where North America’s tectonic plate is slipping under the Caribbean Plate, there’s a vast diversity of underwater geography that has yet to be fully explored, including submarine trenches, underwater mountains, valleys, and canyons. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) recently took its Okeanos Explorer out to the uncharted deep-sea ecosystems of this region of the Atlantic sea floor, capturing spectacular videos of the little-seen marine life that lives there as part of a mission called Océano Profundo 2015: Exploring Puerto Rico’s Seamounts, Trenches, and Troughs.
The three-part, 52-day expedition included mapping unexplored parts of the sea floor, as well as conducting some of the deepest remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) dives yet carried out in the region—up to 20,000 feet below the ocean’s surface. When you get that far into the vast canyons of the ocean floor, you start to see some pretty unusual creatures, including carnivorous sponges, colorful sea cucumbers, deep sea jellyfish, rare octopi, squat lobsters, and even some animals that are so newly discovered they haven't yet been named.
See a few highlights from the live stream of the voyage below:
Say hello to the sea toad Chaunax, the squat blob of my post-apocalyptic nightmares!
Check out this glowing, transparent sea cucumber:
Laetmaster spectabilis, a sea star, hadn't been seen since it was first discovered 130 years ago:
This coronate jellyfish from the genus Atolla, seen at more than 2,600 feet below the surface, looks like a space ship command module:
According to Quartz, the researchers spotted 100 fish species and 50 species of coral over the course of 12 dives, as well as hundreds of invertebrates that had never been observed in their natural habitat before. For more images and videos of the odd-looking creatures of the deep, head over to the expedition website.
All images courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, Océano Profundo 2015: Exploring Puerto Rico’s Seamounts, Trenches, and Troughs.