Scientists capture stunning video of thousands of red crabs lurking in the depths of the ocean.
While studying the biodiversity at the Hannibal Bank Seamount off the coast of Panama, a team of biologists witnessed something absolutely stunning. They spotted a ‘cloud’ of thousands of sea crabs swarming just above the seafloor in the murky depths of the ocean. Researchers, who were on board the submarine during the expedition, claimed they have seen nothing like this anywhere else before.
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“When we dove down in the submarine, we noticed the water became murkier as we got closer to the bottom. There was this turbid layer, and you couldn’t see a thing beyond it. We just saw this cloud but had no idea what was causing it,” said lead researcher Jesús Pineda, a biologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).
“As we slowly moved down to the bottom of the seafloor, all of the sudden we saw these things. At first, we thought they were biogenic rocks or structures. Once we saw them moving –swarming like insects – we couldn’t believe it.”
The giant swarm of crabs was lurking nearly 1,200 feet below the surface in an area of low oxygen water and was kicking up a 30-foot high cloud of mud as it moved along.
The crabs were later identified as red crabs or Pleuroncodes planipes, a species endemic to the waters of California. DNA sequencing confirmed that Panamanian and Californian crabs are the same species. This is the first time when these crabs are seen so far of their expected range and swimming in such depths.
"No one had ever found this species that far south," Pineda said. "To find a species at the extreme of their range and to be so abundant is very unusual."
Researchers also captured the video of this surreal scene during the last dive of their mission in April 2015 which lasted one month.
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Hannibal Seamount, which was the focus of the expedition, is a place known for its biological diversity. Researchers are planning to return to the Hannibal Seamount to find out what makes it so rich in ecosystem and what other communities of unique species are thriving there.