Weird sea creatures on show at Te Papa

Last updated 09:12 30/11/2012
octopus
ROB STEWART/Niwa

A Graneledone taniwha taniwha octopus collected from around 900 metres on the Chatham Rise. It's only about 5cm tall. The common name is 'deepwater warty octopus' - one of two species endemic to New Zealand found between around 450-1500m.

hermit
PETER MARRIOT/Niwa
A close-up of a New Zealand endemic hermit crab (Diacanthurus rubricatus), most commonly found between 200–300m deep.

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A fish choking a shark with slime is among creatures from the deep, never seen publicly before, on show at Te Papa from today.

Deep NZ: Our underwater wilderness, developed by NIWA, GNS Science and Te Papa, promises to showcase New Zealand’s deepwater habitats and creatures such as crabs, tubeworms, precious corals, fish, molluscs and sponges.

The specimens on display have never been seen by the public before and many are new to science.

National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) collection manager Kareen Schnabel said the exhibition showcased why New Zealand’s deep sea life was so special.

"This exhibition showcases our deep-sea research in New Zealand. If we don’t know what is down there, then we can’t take care of it."

NIWA scientist Dianne Tracey said it highlighted what was being studied in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone, which spans four million square kilometres.

"From a range of deep-sea habitats: hot vents and cold seeps, seamounts and rocky slopes, the life found on the vast muddy plains and the creatures that swim in the cold dark waters."

All up, 60 specimens are on display, as well as two videos, taking viewers as deep as 10,000m under the sea.

The video includes rare footage of a shark attacking a hagfish, then the hagfish defending itself by choking the shark with slime.

One of the deep sea animals caught on camera was the New Zealand endemic ‘‘deep-sea warty octopus’’, photographed 900m deep on the Chatham Rise.

For a month of the year-long exhibition, the University of Aberdeen’s ‘‘Hadal Lander’’ will be on display, before being put back to work in the Kermadec Trench, one of the deepest parts of New Zealand waters.

The submersible is sent down to the deepest parts of the ocean. Bait is attached to attract animals that are filmed by a high-resolution video camera.

The exhibition coincides with the 13th International Deep-Sea Biology Symposium, which is being hosted by NIWA at Te Papa from December 3-7.

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- The Dominion Post

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