A research expedition explored hydrothermal vents teeming with life off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica.
Scientists have discovered at least four new species of octopus in an area of about 260 square kilometers off the coast of Costa Rica.
During two expeditions in 2023 aboard the Schmidt Ocean Institute Falkor (also) research vessel, two octopus nurseries were discovered around hydrothermal vents off the coast of the country Pacific Coast.
They found three hydrothermal vents in the area about 10 to 30 nautical miles (18.5 km to 55.5 km) from each other.
Each has its own unique temperatures and chemical characteristics that indicate the different ways they may have formed.
One of the new species, nicknamed Dorado Octopus for the unofficial name of the outcrop on which it was found, was discovered in one of these hydrothermal vents. It has been observed hatching eggs in warm waters.
“Through hard work, our team has discovered new offshore hydrothermal vents [of] Costa Rica and confirmed that they host deep-sea octopus nurseries and unique biodiversity,” says Dr. Beth Orcutt of the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences who co-led the two expeditions.
The other three species were found far from hydrothermal vents in deep sea nearby. And a deep-sea skate hatchery, nicknamed Skate Park, was also found in the waters of Costa Rica.
How will this research help protect Costa Rica’s deep seas?
The more than 160 specimens of deep-sea animals collected during the December expedition will be sent to the Zoology Museum of the University of Costa Rica. They will join the 150 specimens collected by the team last June.
It is one of the first times that all biological samples from a deep-sea expedition will be stored in the country they came from rather than being sent to the United States or Europe. The Schmidt Ocean Institute says this allows local scientists and students to easily access the samples, helping to define strategies for management of the region’s deep seas.
“The impact of R/V Falkor (also) Expeditions to understand Costa Rica’s deep Pacific seas will last into the future and will hopefully create awareness that will translate into policies to protect the country’s deep seas,” says Dr. Jorge Cortés of the University of Costa Rica, the other co- Guide.
“I hope the expedition serves as an inspiration for new generations. We need more international collaborations to advance knowledge of our deep-sea heritage.”
In 2024, Falkor will also operate off the coasts of Peru and Chile, welcoming additional scientists from South America on board.
Schmidt Ocean Institute Executive Director Dr. Jyotika Virmani says they hope to support the scientific community wherever the research vessel goes.